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BBC article highlights tidal stream potential

A recent BBC article explores the possibilities of tidal stream power, revealing that this renewable energy source could meet as much as 11% of the UK's annual electricity demand.

The article also points out that “the incredible energetic potential of tides was spotted by our medieval forbears”, noting that Woodbridge Tidal Mill in Suffolk has been using tidal energy to mill grain for almost 1,000 years.

In fact, as the article says, “The UK is at the forefront of tidal stream research. All sorts of ingenious devices are being tested in the stormy waters off our coasts. The Orkney Islands, 20 miles to the north of the Scottish mainland, have some of the most extreme tidal streams which is why the European Marine Energy Centre was set up there two decades ago.”

The article goes on to highlight the seafloor turbine-array being installed by Scottish company, MeyGen, the Orbital O2 device, which floats on the surface with rotors lowered into the water - described by Orbital as the most powerful tidal stream turbine in the world - and the Minesto Dragon: a tidal kite that uses tidal currents to "fly" underwater in a figure-of-eight.

“In recognition of the potential of the industry, the government is offering generous subsidies to the companies developing tidal technology”, the BBC writes, “Eleven tidal stream energy projects secured funding from the UK government last month”.

The eleven projects funded in Allocation Round 5 of the Contracts for Difference (set up to provide government support to the renewable energy sector in the UK) are:

Dr Amanda Smyth from the University of Oxford believes that “tidal power has really significant potential.” Dr Smyth is part of the CoTide Project run by the Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, and Strathclyde and aiming to deliver co-design for tidal stream energy.

Scotland is of course not the only location for UK tidal power development; a £35 million tidal energy scheme off the coast of Anglesey, North Wales, designed to power more than 180,000 homes, is in development. The Morlais Project (translated loosely as "voice of the sea") was approved in December 2021, and will provide the infrastructure for developers of tidal energy technology to deploy their devices - likely to include turbines installed on the sea-bed, as well as surface and sub-surface moored converters - on a commercial scale. 

The substation linked to Morlais tidal energy on Anglesey was formally opened this week by the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford. Mr Drakeford said that "Morlais is a groundbreaking project and a key part of our transition to a low carbon economy. It is an example of the type of development that will help Wales reach our net zero targets and underlines the importance of investing in clean energy infrastructure for our future generations."

Morlais is the largest consented tidal energy scheme in the UK and is manged by Anglesey-based social enterprise, Menter Môn. The site has the potential to generate up to 240MW of low carbon electricity, and five developers have already agreed connection within the scheme and discussions with an additional five are at an advanced stage. According to the Morlais website, the companies they have been in discussions with so far are: Aquantis Tech, Big Moon Power, HydroWing, Instream, Magallanes, Nova Innovation Ltd, Orbital Marine Power Ltd, QED Naval, Sabella, and Verdant Isles Ltd.

As shown in the table above, four turbine developers linked to the Morlais project have been awarded Contracts for Difference (CfD) as part of the UK Government’s latest renewable energy auction, AR5: HydoWing Inyanga Marine Projects; Môr Energy QED Naval; Verdant Power; and Magallanes Renovables.

Of course, tidal stream development is not limited to Scotland and Wales: in the south of England, the TIGER project aims to drive the growth of tidal stream energy by installing up to 8 MW of new tidal capacity at sites in and around the Channel region, driving innovation and the development of new products and services. The Tidal Stream Industry Energiser Project (known as TIGER), is an ambitious €48.4m project, of which 66% comes from the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme.

As an island nation, the UK is clearly ideally placed to capitalise on the potential use of tidal stream as a component of the UK's renewable energy mix.  Government funding and projects such as CoTide and TIGER look set to tap into this potential, supporting innovators across the country in their efforts to scale up tidal stream.

Tidal power represents a huge store of it, and the UK - an island nation which experiences some of the world's most powerful tides - is uniquely well-placed to exploit that resource. "Tidal power has really significant potential," says Dr Amanda Smyth from the University of Oxford, "yet it has never been developed at scale." She believes that is set to change.


tidalstream, oceanenergy, blueeconomy, energy & environment