UK Marine Energy Continues Aggressive Expansion

The British government has a launched a £20 million ($32 million) scheme to fund projects for groups of wave machines.

The funding money is available for up to two pre-commercial projects and will allow the development of single device prototypes into a cluster of devices. The successful bids will test the operation of their wave or tidal machines in U.K. waters in array formation.

KHI tidal power

image via Kawasaki Heavy Industries

In part due to the U.K’s geography (it is surrounded by sea), marine power is being widely considered as a good potential energy source in the country. The U.K. government claims that a quarter of the world’s wave and tidal technologies are being developed in the British Isles.

The alternate energy has been making waves in the U.K., particularly in Scotland, where a number of companies have developed technologies for harnessing the power of waves. One of them, Pelamis Wave Power, has sold its wave machines to a string of high-profile energy companies and in 2008 created the world’s first commercial-scale wave-power station off the Portuguese coast.

Scotland’s European Marine Energy Centre already serves as proving ground for high profile industry figures from Rolls-Royce to Kawasaki and in February the government announced the creation of the country’s first commercial Marine Energy Park. The South West Marine Energy Park will stretch southwest from the coast of Bristol and Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly – the south westernmost tip of the U.K., in the Irish Sea.

In the plans related to the new fund, the government said projects would only be considered if they met a strict set of criteria. The group of devices must expect to generate at least 7 gigawatts per year when complete and must include at least three generating devices.  The total capacity of the machines must be at least 3 megawatts, while larger arrays will be assessed more favorably. The technology used must have been previously demonstrated at full-scale in real-sea conditions and have an in-principle grid connection already lined up. The project site must be entirely within U.K. territorial waters and be ready to supply electricity to the U.K. grid.

“This scheme will help move marine power to the next stage of development, the demonstration of a number of wave and tidal devices in array formation out at sea,” Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said in a statement. “This will take us one vital step closer to realising our ambitions of generating electricity from the waves and tides, powering homes and businesses across the whole of the UK with clean, green electricity.”

The successful project will be expected to operate for a minimum of two years. Winning bids will be announced by the British government towards the end of the year.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.

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