Science

Brexit Britain triumph as world-beating tidal technology paves way for future energy


Marine Power Systems share their vision for renewable energy

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the UK will get 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2035. The goal, initially outlined during the Conservative Party conference this year, builds on the Government’s target to cut CO2 emissions by 78 percent by 2035 compared with 1990 levels. It comes amid a pocket of energy stress in the UK following the global gas crisis.

The road to switching to renewables has sped up in recent years.

Contributions made by renewables to UK power generation more than doubled in the period from 2014.

In 2020, renewables — mainly wind, solar, biomass and hydro — accounted for 43 percent of the UK’s 312 TWh (terawatt-hour) of domestic power generation.

But the UK’s single largest source of power generation still comes from natural gas, with demands rising in periods of low wind.

UK energy: The country is paving the way for renewable energy in the form of tidal turbines

UK energy: The country is paving the way for renewable energy in the form of tidal turbines (Image: GETTY)

COP26: The world's leaders gathered in Glasgow this year to strike deals on the climate

COP26: The world’s leaders gathered in Glasgow this year to strike deals on the climate (Image: GETTY)

And, the country’s electricity demand is expected to more than double by 2050.

However, Mr Johnson has outlined his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which looks to transform the face of Britain’s energy consumption and production.

The issue with renewable energy via wind is that calm weather periods can result in energy generation dropping.

In August and September, calm weather caused generation to drop 60 percent below the seasonal average.

Many suggestions have been put forward to circumvent this, including from Dr Danny Coles from the University of Plymouth, who is currently researching the potential power of tidal turbines.

He believes that harnessing the UK’s tides — two high and two low tides each day — could provide the country with 11 percent of its power.

Tidal stream turbines work in a similar way to wind turbines, using the tidal flows of the water pushing past blades to turn a generator and produce electricity.

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Tidal turbines: The turbines work in a similar way to wind turbines but are instead underwater

Tidal turbines: The turbines work in a similar way to wind turbines but are instead underwater (Image: GETTY)

The beauty of tidal turbines when compared to wind turbines, Dr Coles says, is that because of the nature of tides, the position of the Earth and Moon, we can predict when these tides will hit the turbines up to 100 years in the future — leaving us with potentially guaranteed energy patterns for generations.

There are several tidal turbine projects currently in action around the UK, with half of all tidal stream energy generated in Scotland.

Given the UK’s position as an island nation, the potential is almost limitless.

There are several major projects currently underway: the MeyGey project at Pentland firth; the Tidal Array in Shetland, which currently has 0.4 MW (megawatt) installed, and the O2 device in Orkney, that is 2 MW.

There is also a range of other tidal work going on, like the prospective Swansea Bay lagoon, and the Mersey tidal power project.

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O2 device: The turbine has been launched in Orkney

O2 device: The turbine has been launched in Orkney (Image: GETTY)

Royal Family: Kate and William visit the Orkney tidal turbine in May

Royal Family: Kate and William visit the Orkney tidal turbine in May (Image: GETTY)

As a result of these, Dr Coles says the UK is leading the way with tidal stream energy.

When asked, he told Express.co.uk: “It is [leading the way].

The UK has the highest installed capacity of turbines in the world.

“And the Government has recently announced that there will be a new subsidy support for tidal energy in the next round of CfD [Contracts for Difference] auctions which is happening in December.

“That’s quite a clear signal that the UK is wanting to develop this industry further and maintain its lead moving forward.”

The UK Government announced it would be putting £20million in funding up for grabs for more projects like those seen in Scotland to be built all across the UK.

Cost of renewable energy: While starting out high, the price of renewable energy has fallen

Cost of renewable energy: While starting out high, the price of renewable energy has fallen (Image: Express Newspapers)

This is intended to help the marine energy sector develop its technology and lower costs to make it a more viable option.

And while putting the money up for auction might seem unfair, the funds have been “ring fenced” for those working within the tidal stream energy sector.

So, whoever secures the funding, the UK is guaranteed to benefit from tidal stream energy.

Dr Coles noted other countries have also turned their attention towards the potential of tidal stream energy: “Canada is a big one, there’s the Force site in the Bay of Fundy, and several developers are working hard to develop projects, with turbines having already been installed in the region.

Green Britain: Tidal turbines could produce 11 percent of the UK's entire energy production

Green Britain: Tidal turbines could produce 11 percent of the UK’s entire energy production (Image: GETTY)

“There’s also a lot of activity in places like France, especially in the Alderney Race, in the Channel Islands.

“And there was also a turbine installed in Japan recently in the Gotō region.

“There is activity elsewhere, but the UK is leading the way at the moment.”

But the emergence of tidal stream power will not happen overnight.

Dr Coles notes that it took the offshore wind industry in the UK “20 years” to generate 11 percent of the country’s electricity demand.

In a piece for The Conservation, he noted: “If tidal stream power is going to contribute to the country’s future electricity needs, turbine installations must be ramped up soon.”





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