Scotland launches its first Marine Energy Park (MEP) in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area. It represents the largest wave and tidal development zone in that part of the world.
Climate Change Minister Greg Barker officially opens the park, which aims to boost the country’s fast growing marine power industry. The park is the second in the UK; the first MEP is located off south-west England.
The park is part of the development plan to build up to 1.6GW of marine capacity in the Pentland Firth area. It houses the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), which is presently testing nine marine devices and is expected to install five more in the next three years.
Carbon Trust says there are presently 46 wave and tidal power devices being developed in the UK, making it the leading marine energy user in the world. The US, ranked second, is developing 17 devices while Canada, in third place, has 10 projects underway.
Stephen Wyatt, head of technology acceleration at Carbon Trust, says marine energy in the UK could realistically provide 13GW of new capacity by 2050, which is 11 percent of total electricity demand. He adds that marine power could also provide up to 26,000 jobs and generate 3 billion pounds a year to the country’s economy.
The challenge facing the marine power industry is the high cost of launching new projects because the technology is still immature compared to other renewable sources. There are currently eight devices in full-scale demonstration stage, but it is difficult to find investors due to the high technology risks and limited returns.
In an effort to increase investments, the UK government confirms it will increase subsidies for wave and tidal energy research. Subject to a 30MW limit, the increase will be from two Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC) to 5 ROCs per MWh.
However, Wyatt says it would require hundreds of millions of pounds to drive cost reduction efforts in the industry.
Carbon Trust research reports a commercial-scale wave energy farm could charge around 40 pence per kilowatt hour (p/KWh) to remain sustainable at current technologies, while tidal array technologies could charge around 30-35p/KWh.
In comparison, onshore wind farms can charge around 10p/KWh while offshore wind farms can charge around 18p/KWh. The current wholesale price of grid energy is 6p/KWh.
Wyatt is optimistic that with the right subsidy, research in marine devices could lower the cost to 18p/KWh by 2025 with around 0.9GW installed. He adds that Carbon Trust is currently closing a deal for an 18 million pound fund that will be used to commercialize two marine power projects in Scotland.