Memorandum submitted by Seapower
Seapower is a newly formed body, a pre-cursor
to a Trade Association, representing the emerging United Kingdom
"wet" marine renewable energy sector, which naturally
encompasses all wave and non-barrier tidal energy devices and
technologies. The organisation has been formed as a result of
recommendations made in the report from the Marine Foresight Panel
"Energies from the SeaTowards 2020" (April 1999),
and is administered under the auspices of the Institute of Marine
Engineers. Seapower believes passionately that wave, current and
tidal power generation technologies can, with a fair level of
government political and financial support, be a key part of the
UK's 21st century energy strategy.
Because there are few commercially viable wave
and tidal power devices, Seapower is not technically a "Trade
Association", rather a body representing the interests of
an emerging group of researchers, manufacturers, developers, academic
institutions and increasingly, mainstream engineering businesses
who see medium and long-term business opportunities in this sector.
The main aims of Seapower can be summarised as:
To raise the profile of wave and
tidal power generation;
To create a unified voice for the
UK "wet" marine renewable energy sector to liaise with
the Media, Government and Planning Authorities;
To provide a forum for wave and tidal
current issues to be debated and resolved;
Together with METN (see below), facilitate
appropriate R&D work, foster collaborative working partnerships,
and help progress devises through demonstration to commercial
Seapower will collaborate closely with the Marine
Energy Technology Network (METN), recently set up under the direction
of Professor Mike Cowling of the Glasgow Marine Technology Centre.
This is a "virtual" network of users and researchers
of energy technology in both the marine renewables and conventional
oil and gas sectors. METN will encourage innovation, creativity
and the natural synergies, which exist between the emergent marine
renewables sector and the developed technologies of the offshore
and subsea oil and gas industry.
METN will therefore provide the technical "back-up"
and credibility to Seapower, as both will share the organisation
of joint technical conferences and workshops aimed at bridging
gaps between the oil and gas and renewable sectors.
Seapower, as a very newly formed organisation,
is delighted to be able to respond to this committee. Now is the
time to combine the UK's prolific marine and offshore oil and
gas engineering talents with the UK's rich wave and tidal current
resources to provide a long-term sustainable energy source, which
does not contribute to climate change. It can, with political
will, be achievedbut the Government needs to take action
1. Technological viability
Technology is available for efficient generation
of power from waves and tides, although not yet mature in the
UK. There is one wave energy device (Wavegen Limpet) supplying
power to the national grid, and several others that are moving
towards commercial development in the next three to five years.
In addition to UK developments, there are other non-UK companies
in Ireland developing wave and tidal technologies, some of which
are moving ahead quite rapidly. A 2 MW device is due to be installed
offshore Portugal in late 2001.
Despite a hostile operating environment, the
evidence of functioning technology and the growing involvement
of commercial interests gives proof that technology required for
wave and non-barrier tidal energy extraction is available, if
at an "early stage", compared with say, wind turbine
The report from the Marine Foresight Panel showed
that the UK has, in the last twenty years, been at the forefront
of developing new technologies and solutions to huge and difficult
challenges in the offshore oil and gas industries, particularly
the subsea sector. Subsea power cable and connectors, floating
mooring systems and subsea pumps and motors have all been developed
by British companies to have long-life and low operating costs
in the subsea or splash-zone environments. A growing body of opinion
is now seeing the clear synergy between these technologies, and
the emerging marine renewable energy technologies. Indeed, forward-thinking
companies in the offshore sector are actively looking at new market
areas as their own industry starts to decline.
A recent study commissioned by the DTI and carried
out by Ove Arup concluded:
"No major technical barriers to the development
of wave energy prototypes have been identified. All the issues
raised under design, construction, deployment and operation can
be addressed by transfer of technology from other industries,
especially the offshore industry".
2. Commercial viability
Wave and non-barrier tidal energy will become
commercially viable for the supply of electricity to the national
grid. Every new technology, whether wind power, subsea control
systems or mobile telephones, has initially been costly. Early
one-off devices are necessarily over-engineered so critical components
can be properly assessed. Costs rapidly fall when larger scale
manufacturing starts, and technology risks have been overcome.
The United Kingdom has the opportunity to be the world-leader
in marine renewable energy, but appropriate government fiscal
and financial support is required.
The technologies are still undergoing development.
No single method has yet been determined to maximise energy capture
from the sea. We are still at the "creative" phase,
yet even so, the cost of power from current wave and tidal energy
devices is between 4 and 8 p/kWh, currently competitive for niche
markets such as remote islands, competing against conventional
diesel generated electricity supply. At this price wave energy
is currently competitive with other renewable energy technologies
such as biomass which have, unlike wave and tidal energy, received
Government support throughout the 1980s and 1990s,
The current Wavegen Limpet installed at Islay
is producing electricity at less cost than the first (NFFO-1)
UK wind projects. Redesign proposals by Wavegen already show substantial
cost reductions from this initial device.
Wave energy does not yet compete with fossil
fuel generation, but then neither did the wind industry at this
stage in its development. In the last 20 years the cost of onshore
wind energy has fallen by a factor of fivea result of the
economies of scale and maturation of a rapidly growing technology,
encouraged financially and fiscally by far-thinking Danish and
German governments. Denmark and Germany now dominate the wind-turbine
industry exporting their technologies world-wide, and providing
tens of thousands of jobs to their economies.
The main projects currently running in the UK
|Wavegen||Limpet 500||Commissioned 11/2000
|Limpet is a 500 kW shoreline wave energy converter, built into a cliff which uses an oscillating water column with a Wells turbine power take-off. The Limpet was installed last year on Islay, West Coast of Scotland, and is currently generating electricity for the UK national grid. The project was part financed by EU & SRO-3 power purchase contract.
Ocean Power Delivery
|Pelamis||1/7 scale prototype to be deployed 2001.|
Full-scale demonstration model in 2002
|The Pelamis is a semi-submerged, articulated structure composed of cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints. The wave-induced motion of these joints generates hydraulic power which drives electric generators. The device is designed to use only currently available technology, and is designed with survivability as its primary objective. The project was awarded SRO-3 power purchase contract, and OPD are currently designing a 1/7 scale prototype which will lead to a full-scale demonstration unit becoming available for test and development in 2002.|
Marine Current Turbines
| ||300 kW marine current turbine will be installed 2002. 600 kW "Twin rotor" device to be installed 2003
|Marine Current Turbines Ltd (was IT Power) has many years experience in testing and developing tidal current devices. The company has a development programme funded by the EC (1 million Euro), matching industry funding, and is awaiting the outcome of a DTI grant in order to go ahead with the world's first commercial-scale tidal turbine project.|
We believe that all the above companies have made individual
submissions to the Committee, and these of course show more details
of their own technologies and timescales.
In addition, there are a number of academic device teams,
and several projects which are at an earlier stage of development.
Seapower believes that wave and tidal energy should have
a much higher priority in the Government's renewable energy strategy.
This is because:
the UK has one of the highest potentials for wave
and tidal energy extraction in the world;
the UK already has technologies (see above) in
the demonstration, development and R&D stage which show real
promise for economically viable energy production;
the country has appropriate engineering talents
and manufacturing capabilities from its mature marine and offshore
oil and gas industries;
there is the real chance of becoming the leading
world player, with the ensuing huge job prospects and economic
benefits to the economy;
the UK has committed to an aggressive CO2 emissions
reduction programme, which requires the rapid take-up of all possible
renewable energy technologies.
At present wave energy is viewed by the DTI as a "Longer
Term (after 2010)" technology, which has "potential
if pursued through R&D". Seapower does not agree with
this assessment. It seems certain that the technical successes
required to trigger large industrial investment will occur over
the next two years. The UK must intensify its research, development
and demonstration programme. This means the budget available in
the DTI wave programme and capital grant assistance (through the
new Renewables Obligation programme) should be significantly increased.
Government support is critical to achieve the potential of
becoming world-leader in these technologies. The "wind model"
shows that the support given by the Danish Government to their
wind power manufacturers and developers over the last 15 years
has developed an industry from nothing to one which employs more
people than the UK's coal mining industry. In addition, it provides
the country with over ten per cent of its electricity needs from
a 100 per cent renewable resource. In some respects Scotland has
taken the lead by setting up a Scottish Commission for Wave Energy,
who we also understand have made a submission to the Committee.
The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, made up
of eminent UK scientists, in its recently published report "Energythe
Changing Climate" states that; "there is a strong need
for direct government support for research and development on
some of the least-developed technologies which offer great potential
but are some way from being competitive, such as wave power and
tidal stream turbines .
Basic research for academic projects is being funded at a
moderate scale through the EPSRC Renewable and New Energy Technologies
(RNET) programme. Funding is also available within the EU 5th
Framework programme for collaborative R&D projects. The DTI's
New and Renewable Energy Programme budget is modest at present,
however the key manufacturers/developers have now moved to the
stage of requiring funds primarily for technology demonstration
Seapower is unable at present to comment on whether national
funding for R&D is being well co-ordinated or what sort of
peer-review processes are undertaken. However, one member company
reports of a conversation with a senior person at the Government
Office (responsible for DTI Smart grants in one region of the
UK) declaring, on turning down a Smart grant application, "The
sea is a terrible place to do anything except float on it!"
This attitudes needs to change.
Seapower believes that of all the renewable energy forms,
wave and non-barrier tidal energy provides the lowest level of
environmental impact, such that organisations such as Greenpeace
have actively campaigned in support of these technologies.
In developing near shore or offshore wave energy projects
it is necessary to account for the physical obstacle that they
represent to other sea users, including fishermen, shipping, navigation,
Ministry of Defence (MoD) practice exercises and anchorage areas.
In general, sites that are good for wave and tidal stream energy
are not in high demand by other users. Detailed consultation during
the scooping phase of any development should rule out locating
wave or tidal energy devices or "farms" in marine areas.
There are a growing number of countries that are showing
significant interest in wave and tidal stream energy and so the
UK runs the risk of falling behind. In addition the country that
demonstrates commitment at this stage is most likely to be the
country that wins the prize of a future major industry.
As mentioned previously the UK is particularly well placed
with its wave power technology and skills and resources from the
offshore oil and gas industry. If the UK does not capitalise on
its present opportunity regarding wave power then in ten years
time it could be importing wave energy devices from a country
that was handed a golden opportunity.
A number of projects have been undertaken abroad, for example
the IPS Buoy in Sweden, Mighty Whale in Japan, OWC with Wells
Turbine (supplied by Wavegen) in the Azores, an OWC in Norway.
To date these projects have not been resoundingly successful,
but they have added to the body of knowledge. More and more countries
are developing wave energy technology. There are Australian, US,
Dutch and other probable developments that are nearing finalisation,
which could erode the UK's lead. Some of there are described in
the book "Power of the waves" by David Ross, OUP, 1995,
The Government, DTI, media and the public need
to be educated that wave and tidal energy are serious renewable
energy technologies which need resourcing NOW, not in ten years
The DTI wave programme funding needs to be significantly
Successfully demonstrated technologies should
be provided with immediate capital grant assistance within the
new Renewables Obligation (RO) to allow further systems to be
Assistance should be given to the setting up of
a UK marine renewable energy test site in the near future to allow
promising demonstration projects to be installed and tested;
Capital grant assistance must be provided within
the RO (on the same scale as proposed for offshore wind) until
costs become competitive with mainstream renewable resources.
It is anticipated that this will be achieved within the next five
11 February 2001