Marine Power Has Very Big English Future

By 2025, the best marine power sites in the United Kingdom could produce energy at a price competitive with nuclear and onshore wind power, according to the Carbon Trust, a nonprofit company that promotes low-carbon energy development. That’s the good news. The tougher pill to swallow is that getting the costs down to that level would require hefty investments in the near-term.

“The costs for the first wave and tidal energy farms will be around 30-40 pounds per kilowatt-hour (p/kWh), which is high, relative to today’s more established low carbon technologies, such as offshore wind,” the Carbon Trust said. But the company said “continued and targeted innovation” would gradually reduce the costs, and that by 2025 marine energy would be a market winner.

wave power, United Kingdom, Pelamis

image via Pelamis Wave Power

Earlier this year, the Carbon Trust put out a report asserting that the U.K. was in a position to capture nearly a quarter of the world’s marine energy market. The company has invested some 3.5 million pounds (around $5.65 million at current exchange rates) in wave and tidal stream energy development through its Marine Energy Accelerator program. The goal of the progam is to push technology forward in order to cut future costs. As an example, it pointed to work it did with Pelamis Wave Power that will save 15 million pounds a year by 2020.

The Carbon Trust believes wave energy could generate 50 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year – about one-eighth of the power the UK uses – while tidal stream energy would kick in another 20.6 TWh per year. “Between them,” the Carbon Trust said, “wave and tidal stream could generate more electricity than 12 large coal-fired power stations.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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