Ocean Energy Gaining Steam

Siemens is raising its equity stake in an company developing tidal energy plants, a sign the technology is gaining mainstream attention.  

Siemens raised its stake in UK-based tidal energy developer Marine Current Turbines from less than 10% to 45%, because it likes the predictability of ocean energy, reports Technology Review.

While solar and wind farms find it hard to project the next day’s output, the gravitational pull of the moon and sun couldn’t be more reliable. It can calculated centuries in advance, Michael Axmann, CFO for Siemens’s solar and hydro division told Technology Review. 

This low volatility increases the value of the energy produced, making it less risky for investors and operators.

Axmann predicts tidal energy will be cost competitive with offshore wind by 2020, even with the difficulties of developing under water systems.

Marine Current Turbines has been operating a 1.2 megawatt (MW) test turbine off the coast of Northern Ireland since 2008, and says costs will come down when it scales to 2 MW. They’ll come down further from efficiencies in equipment assembly and logistics, areas of expertise for Siemens. 

The UK recently more than doubled the renewable energy credits for ocean energy, from 2 credits to 5 credits per 
megawatt-hour of electricity generated. Offshore wind farms get 2 credits and biomass plants get one credit. Utilities have to buy credits to comply with the country’s Renewable Energy Standard.

Marine Current would earn $6 million a year in credits from its first tidal plants, which are expected to produce 15,000-20,000 megawatt-hours a year.

Siemens’ competitor Alstom Group is also getting into tidal energy. It’s building a 1 MW demonstration turbine with licensed technology from Canada-based Clean Current Power Systems. The 20-meter-tall, fully submersible turbine will be installed off the coast of Nova Scotia next year. 

Ocean Energy Roadmaps Released

The International Energy Agency released an International Vision for Ocean Energy, also setting a goal for the technology to be cost-competitive by 2020.

And in the US, where ocean energy has the potential to supply 10% of electricity demand, the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition released a roadmap for commericalization in October.

Canada’s Ocean Renewable Energy Group also announced an industry roadmap in October.

The UK and EU also have a plan and Chile’s Energy Ministry recently commissioned an marine energy strategy.

"International interest in coherent strategic planning shows how serious these efforts are. There is significant global recognition of the economic and environmental benefits this sector can deliver and the increased system reliability supported by a diverse supply portfolio," says University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Henry Jeffrey, who has participated in developing some of the plans.

The US federal government has invested over $50 million in ocean energy since 2008. The US Roadmap spells out the steps necessary to achieve at least 15 gigawatts of grid-connected ocean energy by 2030. 

Here’s the US roadmap:

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