The Crown Estate, a property portfolio owned by the United Kingdom, recently awarded the world’s first commercial wave and tidal leases to build a total of 1.2 GW of wave and tidal energy projects on ten sites in Scotland’s Pentland Firth and Orkney waters. A key proponent of marine energy, UK Energy Minister Lord Hunt, has said that marine energy has the potential to save 70 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while also creating 16,000 jobs.
This historic leasing round builds on the United Kingdom’s achievements in marine energy. In fact, the world’s first and largest commercial-scale tidal stream energy generator has just passed 1,000 hours of operation in the waters off Portaferry in Northern Ireland. The 1.2 MW turbine SeaGen was installed two years ago and has achieved a capacity factor of 66%. So far, the turbine has delivered 800 MWh of electricity to the national grid, enough electricity to power about 1,500 homes.
SeaGen is operated by Marine Current Turbines, a firm that recently received over $12 million in funding from Siemens (NYSE: SI), the Carbon Trust and other investors to deploy the UK's first full-scale tidal array by 2012.
In Liverpool the developers of the Mersey Tidal Power project - Peel Energy and the Northwest Regional Development Agency - hope to harness the renewable energy potential of the Mersey Estuary, one of the largest tidal ranges in the UK. Four approaches have been short-listed for consideration and involve either barrages with turbines or tidal fences.
Meanwhile, a UK renewable energy trade association is calling for government investment of $750 million over two years to meet the UK’s climate and energy goals. According to RenewableUK, which made the request, a portion of the funding would be used to commercialize wave and tidal power.
With or without the additional funding, the UK has asserted itself as a world leader in marine energy. Scotland’s aspiration to be the “Saudi Arabia of marine energy” is emblematic of the UK’s strong commitment to commercializing the technology through aggressive research, development and deployment of marine energy projects.
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