Analysis: Tide is turning for wave power and Scotland is at the forefront
WE ARE at a very exciting stage in the development of wave and tidal power. For the first time we are seeing multiple machines deployed at sea and the meters move as electricity flows.
So we have shown that this bit of alchemy – of creating electricity from the sea – really works.
The machines are doing it more reliably and faster and that in itself is attracting the big utilities, such as E.ON, Vattenfall, ScottishPower and SSE. At the same time we are seeing the big industrials realising these are products they want to make, such as Rolls-Royce, Siemens, Kawasaki. None of these companies have to do this. They are electing to get involved and that trajectory of movement is very telling. And these big industrials have the research breadth and the skills to make it work.
Scotland is in pole position. Most other countries are not even out of the pit lane and we are streets ahead. People in the rest of the world are looking with envious eyes at what Scotland is doing. I think we will maintain the lead providing we keep our foot firmly on the accelerator.
The US and China have quite considerable resources at their disposal if they choose to use them. It is important we help these other countries realise their potential while making sure the work we are doing is not lost. Scotland can be the cradle of the industry, with expertise and technology then deployed overseas.
There is no doubt in my mind that wave and tidal power will become a key part of the energy mix. We have seen a doubling of the machines in the water in the last year or so. I think we will start to see clusters start to roll out, such as Aegir Wave Power’s Shetland project and ScottishPower’s ten tidal machines off Islay.
When will we reach the target of 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity coming from marine power? It could be within a generation. If we make this a UK strategic imperative we could do it in less time. The sky’s the limit.
l Neil Kermode is managing director of the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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