Despite being a challenging year, 2020 saw continuous innovative cross-border collaborations, deployment of state-of-the-art projects and offshore tests being undertaken for the ocean energy sector. The UK is home to the first tidal stream arrays in the world and has already deployed more wave and tidal energy devices than the rest of the world . The UK ocean energy sector continued to reach new milestones this year, with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) achieving the world’s first ocean energy Renewable Energy Testing Laboratory (RETL) designation, the highest international appointment for marine energy test laboratories awarded by the International Electrotechnical Commission – Renewable Energy System (IECRE). 2020 also marked the 1st year of the TIGER project (Interreg’s largest ever project, led by ORE Catapult) to evidence tidal stream cost reduction and Nova Innovation’s world first tidal array successfully powering the Shetland Islands for over five years. With the fourth round of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme of 2021 to be open for bids from the tidal sector, a dedicated policy and revenue support for ocean energy would deliver significant sustainable economic benefits. Also, separation of wind technologies into a separate category (Pot II) shall create more opportunities for ocean energy technologies. However, a reduction in technology costs is still required for the sector to compete with alternative low-carbon technologies and contribute towards achieving the UK’s net-zero target.
In 2020, the wave energy sector continued to engage in innovative R&D to drive the sector towards design convergence and commercialisation:
- Wave Energy Scotland (WES) continues to be the focus for wave energy R&D activity in the UK in terms of funding provision for wave energy innovation and demonstration. In 2020, the programme awarded £1.4 million to four projects developing quick connection systems to improve the installation efficiency and infrastructure of wave power devices.
- EMEC worked closely with the WES Novel Wave Energy Converter developers AWS and Mocean who are gearing up to test at EMEC in 2021. Throughout 2020, EMEC also partnered with Seabased Group to design and implement a testing programme which will support Seabased’s certification goal, crucial to driving quality-controlled manufacture whilst reducing sectoral costs.
- The Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) in Wales also continues to contribute significantly to wave R&D with £30.4M being allocated for wave energy development since 2014.
- In July 2020, Bombora transported the full scale ‘cell module’ structure, a key component part of the 75-meter-long subsea mWave, from the fabrication workshop to the assembly workshop.
In 2020, many tidal stream projects continued to progress towards commercialisation:
- Orbital Marine Power has been busy manufacturing the next generation technology, the O2, its first commercial turbine, due to be installed and tested at EMEC in 2021.
- Magallanes’ test of their second generation, 2 MW tidal platform ‘ATIR’, as part of the H2020 Ocean_2G project led them to secure additional test site access support via the MaRINET2 and OceanDEMO projects. Following some routine maintenance taking place at Leith Imperial Dry Docks, the ATIR will return to EMEC’s Fall of Warness tidal test site in early 2021.
- Towards the end of 2020 EMEC and Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC) signed a partnership to develop a large-scale tidal energy site off the Isle of Wight in England. The project provides a clear market signal to the tidal stream sector in the UK, committing resources and time to further the development and commercialisation of tidal stream devices. The partnership builds on work towards the development of the £41 million Interreg Channel funded TIGER project, which will ready five sites in France and the UK for tidal energy developments.
- Nova Innovation celebrated its 10th birthday with the successful expansion of the Shetland Tidal Array. In October 2020, the company confirmed the installation of its commercial direct-drive tidal turbine “Eunice”, the first of three turbines set to double the size of the world’s first Tidal Array as part of the EnFAIT project, making tidal energy a commercial reality. Additionally, in September 2020 the Scottish tidal developer also announced a $4 million investment from Natural Resources Canada for Phase 1 of its 1.5 MW tidal array in the Bay of Fundy area of Nova Scotia, Canada.
- In October 2020, Minesto installed and commenced commissioning activities of its 100kW DG100 tidal kite system in the Vestmannasund strait, Faroe Islands. By December, it successfully delivered electricity to the Faroese grid facilitated by Power Purchase Agreement with the utility company SEV.