Harnessing the power of the ocean
Driving innovation in ocean energy
With the dependability and strength of the waves and the tides, ocean energy will play a key part in Europe’s sustainable energy future. Europe is at the cutting edge of innovation in ocean energy technology. This includes a range of devices that harness the power of the waves and tidal currents, but to prove that these work they need to be tested in real sea conditions – an obstacle with an added cost that can seriously slow their development.
Helping these innovative ocean energy technologies reach the market is FORESEA. The project brings marine energy technologies – including devices, sub systems, subsea cables and other components – closer to commercialisation by providing free access to state-of-the-art test centres located in real sea conditions. Co-funded by the EU, this €11 million project is unique in Europe.
“Ocean energy testing can only go so far in a wave tank. For it to work, you need to understand how the technology will respond to the realities of the natural environment in the water. The cost of pre-commercial testing and demonstration for ocean energy is high and investors are reluctant to invest until the technology has been proven at sea, but with EU-funding we have succeeded in de-risking innovative concepts,” said project coordinator Nicolas Wallet at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Scotland.
Attracting investment with large-scale test centres
FORESEA has helped establish 4 testing facilities in Northern Scotland, Western Ireland, Western France and the Netherlands. Under the project, €30 million in investment has been secured in 19 technologies that have been deployed in real sea conditions, including the world’s most powerful tidal turbine.
“Our centres have helped convince investors of the readiness of the technology. Supply chains are being built, more devices are being deployed, employment is growing and centres of expertise are emerging,” said Wallet.
Ocean energy, like many renewables, has high upfront capital costs needed to develop and test the technology. However, once systems are up and running, the operational costs are low since the fuel is both carbon- and cost-free. Moreover, using ocean data has made wave and tidal energy highly predictable. This means that these technologies can provide a base source of renewable energy, complementing other renewables with lower levels of predictability like wind and solar power.
EMEC recently won more EU funding under the Interreg Atlantic Arc Blue GIFT programme. This funding will be used to help build new ocean energy – wave, tidal and floating offshore wind – test centres in Spain, Portugal and France, transferring knowledge already gained under FORESEA.
As test centres expand, so do ocean energy’s prospects: “Being nominated for an EUSEW award is the acknowledgement that marine renewable energies are starting to have an impact for the future of Europe’s energy system. We are very excited about the important role that innovative marine renewables will play in providing emission-free energy to Europe,” said Wallet.