tide turning for ocean energy?
By RoNA FRIED, Ph.D.
Surge of prototype projects could signal dramatic growth in ocean energy industry.
rona fried, Ph.D., is
president of sustainable
Business.com, the online
community for green
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contact fried at rona@
Is the global ocean energy industry at a turning point? With all the attention focused on energy efficiency, wind, solar and smart grid development, we haven’t
heard much about ocean energy in the last year or two.
Financing is tight and venture capital is extra cautious as
the world struggles to get through this tough recession. It’s
not the best time for a new industry to gain footing.
High initial costs and long development lead times
make the ocean power industry dependent on government support. Ocean energy has received much less support than solar or wind, but that could change. Costs are
high because prototypes must stand up to ocean storms,
and in the United States they must navigate a confusion of
overlapping offshore permitting authorities.
After only a dozen wave and tidal prototypes were
installed in 2009, more than 45 projects will have been tested in 2010 and 2011, according to IHS Emerging Energy
Research. If these prototypes are successful, IHS believes
the global ocean energy project pipeline is poised to begin
scaling. They estimate that more than 1.8 gigawatts (GW)
of ocean projects in 16 countries are in the pipeline.
Thanks to government policy support, the United Kingdom holds the lead in ocean energy — 300 megawatts
(MW) of projects are in the pipeline to be installed over
the next five years. The UK wants to add 1.3 GW by 2020
to help meet its legally binding 2020 renewable targets. Ireland, France, Portugal, South Korea and Australia are also
key ocean energy markets and will remain the industry’s
primary focus for the next decade, according to IHS.
And it’s not just tiny
start-ups that are pushing the field forward.
A slew of established
energy firms, including
European utilities and
global technology suppliers with hydro and
offshore wind experience, are interested in
Of the various forms
of ocean energy, tidal
energy is poised to mature first because it offers the promise
of predictable, lower-cost electricity and a standard design.
“The strong synergies between tidal turbine manufacturing and the hydropower industry have attracted major
power sector OEMs,” says IHS Senior Renewable Power
Analyst Marianne Boust. “Over the past two years, all
three of the major hydropower turbine vendors — Andritz
Consult your financial
advisor before making
Pelamis wave power
machine at work at the
Aguçadoura Wave Park
42 March 2011 SOLAR TODAY solartoday.org
Copyright © 2011 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
Hydro, Alstom Hydro and Voith Hydro — who account
for over 80 percent of the global hydro turbine supply, have
jumped into the tidal sector.”
Because these large hydro players see tidal energy as a
synergistic growth opportunity, they are crucial to catalyz-
ing quick development and commercialization of the tidal
industry. They could help the ocean energy industry over-
come its technological challenges and drive down costs.