3rd June 2015
Stuart Bradley – Offshore Renewables Strategy Manager
The UK is an island nation surrounded by water so – pardon the pun – you might think we would be awash with devices that could harness the power of the waves and turn it into a clean energy source.
Whilst the UK has some of the world’s best available wave resources, the challenge is to extract this energy from a very demanding environment at the lowest cost where devices need to be reliable, robust and operate safely.
The UK leads the world in the development of wave energy devices. These show that generating power from the waves is feasible and technically viable.
However, the wave industry is still in its infancy and the timescale to make wave energy as cost competitive as tidal and other low carbon sources looks very long-term – presently alternative low carbon sources are much cheaper.
If wave energy technology achieved the ETI/UKERC marine energy technology roadmap targets then it could economically supply between 100 and 300MW of power by 2020 on a pathway to being cost competitive and delivering 4GW of electricity by 2050.
For this to happen costs would need to be in the region of 10 to 20p/kWH by 2020. Our analysis suggests these targets will not be achieved until at least 2030.
Wave energy is also an intermittent source – it is not predictable and the extreme conditions that it has to be harvested from means a lot of expense goes into robust machinery design adding to the overall cost of extraction.
Currently there is no uniformed design principles unlike the tidal stream industry where most designs are horizontal axis turbines, so the industry does not benefit from volume manufacturing and 30 years of innovation which is a big driver on cost reduction. Our work on our wave energy convertor project highlighted the fact that design convergence of wave arrays and device systems is essential.
For these reasons, we believe the industry needs to take a radical and fresh approach to how it extracts and converts energy from waves if costs are to come down and make it competitive. If it is to succeed and costs do come down in the longer term there will need to be greater collaboration to build on the lessons learnt by the industry to date.
As such, we welcome the introduction of parties such as Wave Energy Scotland, who will bring a fresh approach to the market, focusing on learning from collaboration and a rethink on the design of conversion and extraction technology.
For further information on wave energy in the UK please click here.