Cutting-edge breakthroughs are revolutionising tidal and wave energy, reshaping sustainable power, here we explore the transformative innovations shaping the sector's future
In the Faroe Islands, Minesto is part of one of the world’s most ambitious energy transition schemes. Collaborating with the electric utility company SEV, Minesto is working to pave the way for tidal energy to become a core part of the Faroese energy mix, allowing them to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Since it initially signed a collaboration back in November 2018, Minesto has achieved significant milestones at the site. Back in July 2022, it successfully commissioned the first 100kW unit of tidal power plant ‘Dragon 4’ in grid-connected operation, with the commissioning results verifying commercial performance. In December, it completed additional offshore infrastructure installation to double electricity production from two Dragon 4 (100kW) tidal energy power plants in an array set-up.
In January 2023, Minesto and SEV renewed and expanded the collaboration agreement outlining respective roles and responsibilities related to tidal energy build-out in the Faroe Islands, including the ongoing electricity production in Vestmannasund and the first large-scale tidal array in Hestfjord.
An important add-on to the extended agreement stipulates the exclusive nature of the collaboration regarding the Hestfjord site development and build-out. This aspect facilitates and supports the ongoing work to create an attractive investment and the set-up of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to funnel project investments, Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), potential public funding (e.g., EU) and other assets.
The agreement also outlines the expanded operation at the existing Vestmanna production site. The collaboration is based on the sharing of production and performance data from ongoing operations as well as in-depth analysis of site characteristics of the existing and planned site locations for joint business case assessments.
“Strengthened and extended collaboration with the utility company SEV is a cornerstone for Minesto in creating one of our first tidal energy arrays. SEV’s role as a pioneer customer, infrastructure provider and obvious leading local actor is highly appreciated and valued,” said Dr Martin Edlund, CEO of Minesto.
“Minesto has shown a strong commitment to the Faroe Islands operations and the technology is in steady progress. We are looking forward to the upcoming scale-up of the dragons as well as continued site development work in Hestfjord,” added Hákun Djurhuus, CEO of SEV.
It’s not just in the Faroe Islands where Minesto is reaching commercial milestones – just last month it announced it has received its first historic sales order of site development services for Dragon Class tidal energy powerplants to a major corporation in the Asian offshore energy sector.
The work is planned to be completed in the first quarter of 2023 and has an initial order value of €35,000.
Minesto offers a structured approach to site identification and evaluation based on hands-on experience from existing sites in Wales, the U.K. and the Faroe Islands.
“Given the unique production site characteristics of our technology, it is vital that we now offer these services to third-party project developers, in addition to our own ongoing site development activities,” said Dr Martin Edlund.
Site development is the initial step for the offshore energy sector to enter the ocean renewable value chain. Offshore operators also bring complementary strengths to Minesto with their established marine operations and experience in large energy infrastructure projects.
“It is most valuable for us that site identification and feasibility services engage independent project investors and energy project developers. Willingness to procure site identification and assessment is key to our product sales and large-scale build-out. A milestone has been reached in the Asian market,” added Edlund.
Back in December, Minesto also announced it had signed two collaboration agreements for development in the Nusa Tengara Barat region, Indonesia. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Minesto and the regional Eco Regions Indonesia, as well as a Letter of Intent (LoI) between Minesto and the Nusa Tengara Barat (NTB) region.
The initiative in Indonesia is part of Minesto’s broader market establishment in Southeast Asia. The Nusa Tengara Barat region has ambitious sustainability goals and is a forerunner in Indonesia’s energy transition. The regional commitment and availability of ocean currents make Nusa Tengara Barat a favourable entry market for Minesto in Indonesia.
The collaboration agreements include feasibility studies on the natural resource, infrastructure, and finance, and are based on collaborative work to integrate Minesto’s technology as a part of the 100% renewable energy mix in the region, starting with the Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
“Minesto has been received with serious and strong interest and excitement by a range of stakeholders in Indonesia. Our participation in the Sweden-Indonesia Sustainability Partnership (SISP) Energy Alliance on the government level further supports the implementation roadmap to build sustainable and affordable electricity generation based on our technology in Indonesia,” said Dr Martin Edlund, CEO of Minesto.
Minesto is a new member of the bilateral program Sweden-Indonesia Sustainability Partnership (SISP) Energy Alliance, and the collaboration agreements signed today is a first step towards building out of several key interest areas in Indonesia. As the fourth largest country by population and one of the largest ocean territories in the world, Indonesia faces a true challenge in the transition from fossils to affordable and suitable renewables. Indonesia consists of more than 17,000 islands, all relying on fossil energy such as coal and diesel, but also possesses one of the world’s largest tidal and ocean current natural resources.
“It is central for Minesto’s commercial roll-out to establish initiatives in the largest markets with respect to the availability of ocean and tidal currents. In these countries, we can make a significant impact on the roadmap towards a true renewable energy mix,” concludes Edlund.
Tidal turbine blades
A project aiming to maximise tidal energy generation has been launched in the presence of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, at the University of Edinburgh’s FastBlade facility in Scotland, UK.
The Princess Royal, who is also Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, visited on 17 January to meet colleagues from the testing facility and partners of the new MAXBlade project.
The €10 million project – funded by the European Union and UK Research and Innovation – aims to deliver a range of innovations to improve the performance of tidal turbines and reduce costs.
It will investigate the full lifecycle of tidal turbine blades, from materials, manufacture and operation, to decommissioning and recyclability. The project’s long-term aim is to ensure the European composite sector becomes the international leader in tidal blade manufacture.
The project plans to increase the area harnessed by Scottish tidal technology company Orbital Marine Power to generate power – known as the rotor swept area – by 70 percent to more than 1,000 square metres.
MAXBlade will increase the length of the turbine blades from 10 to 13 metres – making them the longest of their kind in the world. The team says that boosting blade length will have the single greatest impact on reducing the cost of tidal energy.
Modelling by the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Energy Systems estimates £40bn could be generated for the UK economy by harnessing wave and tidal energy.
The project will involve a two-year design and development phase, followed by an 18-month build, during which blades will undergo advanced structural testing at FastBlade.
The technology will then undergo two years of real-world testing at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. Two of Orbital Marine Power’s O2 floating platforms – the world’s most powerful tidal turbines – will each be fitted with four of the newly developed blades.
The team aims to generate 120,000 hours of performance data that will be assessed by EMEC and project partner TECNALIA, a research and technological development centre.
Innovations from MAXBlade will be integrated with findings from its sister project, FORWARD2030, to enable large-scale production of Orbital’s O2 turbine technology. This will pave the way for the tidal energy sector to make significant contributions towards Europe’s energy systems, energy security and industrial development by 2030 and beyond 2050, the team says.
Andrew Scott, Chief Executive Officer at Orbital Marine Power, said: “Orbital is delighted to be involved with so many great partners on this truly cutting-edge project. MAXBlade will help deliver tidal energy into a future, low-carbon energy mix at lower costs while, at the same time, position UK & European businesses to benefit from long-term industrial opportunities that will come from this new, sustainable industry.”
Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of School and Chair of Materials Engineering at Edinburgh University, added: “The University of Edinburgh is delighted to be a partner in the MAXBlade project, where we will demonstrate the unique rapid testing capability of the FastBlade facility. This will help the tidal energy industry to de-risk their ongoing turbine developments and provide low-cost, reliable renewable energy to the grid. We will also lead the development of thermoplastic resins in MAXBlade and the circular economy roadmap needed for future tidal blade manufacturing and recycling.”
MAXBlade is led by TechnipFMC and includes Orbital Marine Power, Marasoft, TECNALIA, University of Edinburgh, EMEC, Laborelec and the European Composites Industry Association. It is supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service.
Streamlining wave energy consenting
Staying in Scotland, it was recently announced that the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has been awarded a site-wide section 36 consent at its grid-connected Billia Croo wave test site off the west coast of Orkney, Scotland, further streamlining the consenting process for its clients, reducing the time and cost associated with offshore demonstration.
Subjected to the powerful forces of the North Atlantic Ocean, Billia Croo has some of the highest wave energy potentials in Europe with an average significant wave height of 2-3m. The site consists of five cabled test berths in up to 70m water depth. A near-shore berth is situated closer to shore for shallow water projects.
Marine Scotland has awarded EMEC with section 36 consent for the site, and the site has also been expanded by an area of 2.6km2 to the northwest enabling access to deeper water. Maximum installed generating capacity has been increased to 20MW and a wider ‘envelope’ of device types and operations has been approved. Technologies over 1MW can now demonstrate at the Billia Croo test site without having to apply for individual section 36 consents.
To support the section 36 application, seascape, landscape and visual impact assessments were conducted alongside an environmental appraisal. These assessments focused on an agreed ‘envelope’ of device types and activities that could be deployed within the test site boundaries and considered the potential impacts that may occur during the installation, operation and decommissioning phases of device and infrastructure testing.
The site-wide consent lasts until 2040, future-proofing the consenting process for clients accessing EMEC’s facilities.
“Thanks to our subcontractors – Land Use Consultants, Xodus Group, Atlantic Ecology and Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology – for completing the required environmental assessments and appraisals that supported our application,” said Amy Sutcliffe, Environment and Consents Officer. “Section 36 consent is required under the Electricity Act 1989 for any developers with a generating capacity of greater than 1 MW. By EMEC achieving a site-wide licence, we’re making it easier for our clients to get consents in place and further reducing the time and cost of testing in the sea.”
Progress at MeyGen
Tidal energy developer SAE has announced it is continuing to make good progress in the delivery of the first commercial-scale tidal array in the world at its MeyGen site in Scotland. The next phase at the MeyGen site will see SAE deliver an additional 28 MW of predictable, renewable power.
To take overall responsibility for the delivery of phase 2, SAE appointed Mr Mark Evans as Project Development Director. Mark brings over 20 years of renewable energy development and delivery experience, including the development of over 1GW of wind projects. Mark brings to the team a proven track record of successfully delivering major renewable projects as well as a passion for tidal energy.
SAE also announced that it has appointed Lumin Capital, an international corporate finance advisory firm, as financial advisor for MeyGen phase 2 to advise on securing the necessary financing for the project. Lumin Capital brings extensive experience of working with project developers on projects around the world to enhance shareholder value and secure funding. Lumin will be a key part of the team in ensuring the success of MeyGen phase 2.
SAE has been active at the MeyGen site, completing resource surveys which provide vital data to better understand the tidal resource across the site to allow for the detailed design of the project. In October 2022, SAE successfully deployed an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP), a tidal flow measurement device, at the MeyGen site. The ADCP will be deployed for a month to record a full lunar cycle’s worth of data. SAE has combined the fixed deployed ADCP with vessel-mounted ADCP surveys to better understand the variable flows across the site. SAE is working with Fraser Nash Consultancy and the University of Edinburgh on this analysis and the tidal array design optimisation work that will subsequently be conducted using this data.
SAE remains on track to achieve financial close of the MeyGen phase 2 project in 2024 with operation starting in 2027.
The MeyGen project has been split into four phases, with the offshore lease and site resource allowing for a capacity out to 398MW to be installed. The phases have been split into Phase 1 (6MW), Phase 2 (28MW), Phase 3 (52MW) and Phase 4 (312MW).
Deployment in Portugal
CorPower Ocean’ recently announced its first commercial-scale C4 Wave Energy Converter (WEC) is getting ready for deployment at the Aguçadoura site in northern Portugal.
Following integration and testing in CorPower Ocean’s machine hall within the port of Viana do Castelo, the device has now been moved out to our quayside ‘launchpad’.
The mooring and tidal regulation units have been attached to the C4 WEC and a sequence of Pre-Deployment Checks have been performed, successfully verifying all system functions.
Communication over fibre and air has been established, allowing remote control and monitoring from CorPower Ocean’s control centre in Stockholm.
In line with a suitable weather window, the C4 system will be towed out and deployed at the Aguçadoura marine energy site located 30km south of the port.
CorPower Ocean’s Director of Integration and Testing Jean-Michel Chauvet said: “Taking our first commercial scale C4 machine through assembly and testing, getting us ready for the ocean, is a major achievement for our team. Designing the world’s most efficient wave technology is one thing, realizing it through manufacturing, assembly and testing takes even more effort. We work to make wave energy a reliable and competitive source of clean electricity, and we are proud to show the C4 system in its final state.”
Following load-out, the C4 WEC will be towed to the installation site by a small tug vessel and connected to the pre-installed UMACK anchor on the seabed. A pull-in line arrangement located on the anchor head allows for fully surface-operated installation and retrieval of the WEC.
CorPower Ocean’s modular approach to wave farms is based on high-density clustering involving many small identical units rather than single, large machines. A 10MW ‘CorPack’ wave cluster consists of 28 WEC units, 9m in diameter with 150m spacing, delivering high power per ocean space.
This approach enables volume manufacturing methods and economies of scale to support a very competitive cost curve. A unique mobile factory cell concept allows for on-site fabrication of the composite hulls, while the relatively small dimensions of the WECs ensure engagement with local supply chains for the fabrication of subsystems.
As demonstrated in Viana do Castelo, local ports can further support on-land logistics, with low-cost vessels for operations and maintenance. The delivery concept enables the rapid roll-out of the technology on a global scale, with high local content generating sustainable jobs and economic development to coastal communities in the regions.
Tidal powering innovation
Plans have been unveiled for what could become the world’s first tidal energy-powered container port, capable of handling the largest vessels trading within international markets. Infrastructure developer Centre Port Holdings is working to develop an innovative £2bn scheme in The Wash region of East Anglia in England.
Wash potentially has a 780km2 tidal area for renewable energy production. This could power the sea container terminal and up to 600,000 homes, with any excess being used to create green hydrogen to help decarbonise the local farming and transport sector. Energy company Centrica is reported to have entered into a strategic partnership with Centre Port and signed an expression of interest for the power. Environmental and technical studies are likely to be underway soon.
In addition, this 19km long structure would also provide flood protection for up to one million people across the countries of Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. The area is not unfamiliar with flooding as storm surges have been a regular occurrence since the 13th century.
Most recently, a huge storm surge across the east coast of England in 1953 led to 300 deaths and 40,000 people being left homeless. In 1993 a North Sea storm surge and high waves led to flooding in the Norfolk Broads. Twenty years later, Boston in Lincolnshire experienced its worst tidal surge flooding since the 1980s which devastated the town centre.
It is anticipated that without additional flood protection, climate change may lead to fiercer tidal surges and flooding. The region currently accounts for one-third of the UK’s vegetable growing industry which could be at risk. Centre Port claims that such flood protection will help to preserve the natural habitats, and wading areas and secure the existing ecology of The Wash. However conservation groups have argued that there will be impacts on local wildlife and that the area is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Centre Port says that the new scheme will also provide over one thousand job opportunities during construction, with hundreds of full-time skilled opportunities afterwards. In addition, it aims to engage with local education and universities and utilise apprenticeship opportunities to develop young talent. Other benefits include import and export opportunities with enhanced logistics and rail infrastructure; the development of marinas and desirable waterside developments in The Wash; and opportunities for recreational water activities and tourism.
Kite flying with Falcon
Flying kites underwater to generate electricity is an innovative renewable energy concept being installed in the Faroe Islands, supported by SJH Diving and their new Saab Seaeye Falcon.
The subsea kite turbine is a unique concept created by developer Minesto to generate electricity in tidal streams and ocean currents using the principle of flying a stunt kite in the wind.
By swooping through the water in a constant figure-of-eight motion on a tethered cable, the kite turbine accelerates through the water considerably faster than the actual flow speed.
The electricity generated from a kite turbine is several hundred times greater than that from a stationary turbine.
In support of multiple kite installations, Faroes-based SJH Commercial Diving will deploy their Seaeye Falcon underwater robot for inspecting power-cable runs along the seabed to the shore and inspecting and cleaning foundation points.
Símin Jákup Højsted of SJH Diving says the Falcon was the best choice for strong currents compared to five competitive makes of vehicles. SJH’s Seaeye Falcon comes with multi-beam sonar, single-function and five-function manipulators, a cathodic potential probe and a fully-kitted cleaning skid.
This article first appeared in International Water Power magazine.