Marine energy sector continues growing worldwide, despite economic setbacks

Ocean

A report released recently by the International Energy Agency's Ocean Energy Systems shows that the marine and hydrokinetic sector moved closer to commercial viability through 2014.

The OES report used data from each of its 23 member countries and examined policy changes, public funding opportunities and projects put into the water worldwide.

And though the marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) sector continues to expand, OES chairman Jose Luis Villate said it still faces a number of challenges.

"The OES mission is a long-term one," Villate said. "Ocean energy is still a small actor in the energy landscape. The contribution from ocean energy is very low and will not be significant in the foreseeable future.

Still, as the report notes, "OES member countries recognize that commercialization and deployment of ocean energy will help meet the goal of clean and sustainable energy supply," with a number of nations promoting MHK-related policies to support renewable portfolio standards and long-term energy strategies.

A number of European countries -- including Denmark, Norway and Sweden -- have either enacted or are discussing approval processes for sea usage, while the United Kingdom continues to gauge interest in ocean and tidal lagoon projects.

Meanwhile, the United States is currently considering several pieces of federal legislation that would expedite MHK permitting, and Canadian province Nova Scotia established a feed-in tariff approval process for large-scale tidal projects.

Public funding for MHK research and development has also increased in a number of OES countries -- notably China, with more than US$128 million supporting over 90 marine energy projects; the United States, with an increase in the Department of Energy Water Power Program's annual budget to $41.3 million in 2014; Canada, with about $50 million devoted to MHK development since 2010; and Europe, where the European Commission and European Union's Research and Innovation program continue supporting ocean energy.

Though funding for the marine sector has, in some cases, even increased through the past year, it has not prevented industry stalwarts like Vattenfall and Siemens from shuttering their tidal power units.

"The economic downturn is not helping to accelerate ocean energy development and we are living through some uncertainties affecting iconic ocean energy companies," Villate said.

Regardless, OES member countries worldwide have seen "good progress" with several demonstration projects going into the water in 2014, with highlights including:

  • United Kingdom: The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) was very active throughout 2014 with five wave energy projects and seven tidal current energy projects tested. Wales' Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and the MeyGen tidal array Sotland's Pentland Firth also took significant strides.
  • Portugal: Pico Plant, owned by Wave Energy Center (WavEC) continues to deliver electricity to the grid, while the grid connected WaveRoller demonstration project in Peniche completed another series of tests in Fall 2014.
  • Spain: Wedge Global tested its Canary Islands wave energy demonstration project, and a Magallanes Renovables SL turbine was tested at EMEC.
  • Italy: A tidal current submerged floating concept known as "GEM" was tested near Venice in a very slow speed current, and a full scale prototype is being designed for deployment in the Strait of Messina. Ponte di Archimede International S.p.A. is very close to isntalling a Kobald turbine on Lombok Island, Indonesia. Enel Green Power and 40South Energy began the installation and commissioning of a wave energy converter in Tuscany.
  • The Netherlands: Two tidal current projects were put into operation, as well as the 50-kW Friesland/Afsluitdijk salinity gradient energy pilot plant.
  • Denmark: A wave energy converter known as Crestwing was tested at sea, and support from Energinet.dk was granted for the design, building and testing of three Danish prototypes.
  • Norway: Havkraft deployed a 200 kW demonstration wave energy converter, and Andritz Hydro Hammerfest is now taking the step into commercial delivery of a tidal current energy project.
  • Sweden: Uppsala University's Lysekil wave power and the Soderfors marine current projects both went on line.
  • United States: The U.S. Department of Energy grants helped with the deployment of several projects, including the M3 Wave project off the coast of Oregon, the Oscilla Power wave energy converter in New Hampshire, and the RivGen Power deployment in Alaska. 
  • Canada: Four developers received feed-in tariff approval to be developed at the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) site in Nova Scotia, totalling 17.5 MW. A number of river current technologies have been tested at the Canadian Hydrokinetic Test Centre. The 20-MW Annapolis Royal tidal barrage power plant continues to operate today by Nova Scotia Power.
  • Korea: The Korea Research Institute of Ships & Ocean Engineering (KRISO) constructed 500 kW and 200 kW demonstration plants on Jeju Island. The company also completed designs of a 300 kW floating pendulum-activated wave energy converter.
  • Singapore: Hann-Ocean Energy continued tests of a commercial pilot project, comprising four Drakoo-B0004 units.
  • New Zealand: Northwest Energy Innovations (NWEI) successfully completed sea trials with pilot scale projects in New Zealand and Oregon with the AzuraWave (former Wave Energy Technology New Zealand or WETNZ) and the project is preparing to move now to Hawaii.
  • China: The Jiangxia tidal power plant is being upgraded from 3.9 MW to 4.1 MW.
"This growth is assisting us in our mission of international collaboration to accelerate the viability, uptake and acceptance of ocean energy systems in an environmentally acceptable way," Villate said.
 
A full copy of the 2014 Ocean Energy Systems Annual Report can be downloaded from the organization here.

For more marine and hydrokinetic news, visit here.

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