Orbital Marine Power’s O2 floating tidal turbine (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

Industry unites to praise ‘fantastic day’ for UK tidal energy sector

Industry associations, research centers and supported developers have all unanimously welcomed the results of the latest renewables auction in the UK – where 53MW of tidal stream projects won contracts – deeming the outcome a ‘resounding vote of confidence’ in the increasingly mature tidal energy sector.

Orbital Marine Power’s O2 floating tidal turbine (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

Seven developers including British, Spanish and US companies, secured contracts to develop a total of 53MW of tidal stream energy across four locations in the UK.

These include Orbital Marine Power, which was awarded two further contracts for difference (CfDs) totaling 7.2MW – building on the previous year’s allocation round where it also secured contracts for the same capacity.

The CfDs will allow Orbital to expand its development of projects in Orkney with the construction of six floating tidal energy turbines now covered by the CfD scheme.

These additional turbines will be able to power to up to 9000 homes, supporting the UK’s security of supply, energy transition and broader climate change objectives. In addition, this means Orbital can make a significant investment in the UK supply chain as it sets about establishing series production of its innovative technology.

Andrew Scott, CEO of Orbital Marine Power, said: “This latest award creates more clarity for us and our supply chain about our immediate ambitions, allowing us to build on our progress to date.

“Securing these latest CfDs is another key step on a path that ends with clean predictable power being delivered to thousands of UK households and businesses, alongside building factories of the future and creating sustainable, green jobs at a ratio that hasn’t been achieved in the renewable space before.

“We maintain our commitment to establishing a valuable supply chain within the UK. Maximizing the benefits and rewards from this endeavor will take leadership and long-term commitment from the UK government.”

Another UK company, SIMEC Atlantis Energy has successfully secured four CfDs in the latest allocation round, for the world leading MeyGen site.

These CfD contracts, which guarantee £198/MWh for 15 years from March 31, 2028 commissioning date, will allow the company to deliver a total of 22MW of clean, home-sourced, predictable power at its MeyGen site in Scotland.

SIMEC Atlantis said it has been making good progress on the delivery of the 28MW secured in the previous CfD allocation round, and the success in this round will help the project achieve greater economies of scale and address the significant cost increases faced by those successful in 2022.

By delivering these projects in parallel, SAE will be delivering a 50MW tidal stream array, in addition to the 6MW already operational at the MeyGen site. This is the equivalent of over 65,000 homes per annum being powered by the tide.

The company added it is in advance discussions with a consortium, involving global manufacturing and engineering firms, which will see the deployment of 3MW turbine, claiming also that these will be the most powerful tidal turbines ever deployed.

Hailing the results, industry associations call for bigger funding pot for future rounds

The UK Marine Energy Council (MEC) has welcomed the ‘fantastic results’ and the industry’s strong response to successive auction round support. Tidal stream projects are being delivered with over 80% UK supply chain content spend, according to the council, which added the government could embed that content in global deployment and export tidal stream technology around the world.

Tidal stream, via economies of scale, volume, accelerated learning, and reduction in the cost of deployment, is on a similar cost reduction path as wind and solar. The cost of deployment will fall as more capacity is deployed, and at 1GW of deployment tidal stream will be cheaper than new nuclear, according to UK MEC.

A commitment to an ongoing ringfence for tidal stream will provide the industry with the certainty it needs to invest in UK supply chains, while increasing the ringfence will accelerate deployment and allow technology to become cheaper, as more is deployed, UK MEC noted.

Richard Arnold, policy director of the UK MEC, said: “This is a fantastic day for the industry and proof that with the right support tidal stream energy can play a key role in the UK’s future energy mix.

“Successive support in renewable auctions could see over 100MW deployed in the UK by 2028 and more tidal stream projects in UK waters than the rest of the world combined.

“It is critical that the ringfence is maintained in future renewable auctions to realize the UK’s 11GW of tidal stream potential. By maintaining the ringfence the government can harness an entirely predictable renewable resource, level up with green jobs in coastal communities, maintain its international leadership and export technology and expertise around the world.”

The same message has come from the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, which is the UK’s flagship innovation center for offshore renewable energy.

Commenting, Simon Cheeseman, ORE Catapult’s sector lead on wave and tidal energy, said: “We welcome the endorsement of the UK’s tidal stream industry today, with 11 successful bids representing more than 53MW awarded CfDs in the UK government’s fifth allocation round announcement.

“We look forward to seeing these tidal developments progressing to deployment and becoming part of our future energy mix. In future allocation rounds, we would hope to see an even bigger pot of funding to stimulate the larger projects that industry wants to deliver and drive down tidal energy costs more efficiently.

“As we strive towards reaching 1GW tidal deployment capacity by 2035, the UK’s world leading expertise in tidal stream energy should be capitalized on – for the benefit of our own energy future, as well as fueling the green energy transition across the world.”

European Union ‘must also step up’ its support for ocean energy

Illustration/Tidal energy turbines from US-based Verdant Power which secured contract in latest CfD round (Courtesy of US DOE/Photo by Paul Komosinski, Drone Altitude/for NREL)
Illustration/Tidal energy turbines from US-based Verdant Power which secured contract in latest CfD round (Courtesy of US DOE/Photo by Paul Komosinski, Drone Altitude/for NREL)

Ocean Energy Europe has deemed the UK government’s support as an important boost for European tidal stream sector, stating that this is a timely reminder for the EU, currently reviewing its Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy, of the importance of long-term political and financial visibility in accelerating the development of ocean energy.

Europe’s industrial competitiveness depends on the growth of emerging sectors such as these, as recent funding and policy commitments in China and the US show that they are hot on the tail of Europe’s longstanding leadership in ocean energy, according to the Brussels-based industry association.

Ocean Energy Europe suggests that the revised strategy should therefore build on its original vision with new targets and clear funding paths, noting that the EU must also encourage member states to provide both ambitious targets, revenue support schemes and simplified permitting for ocean energy at a national level.

Rémi Gruet, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe, said: “Today’s results from the UK reflect the growing confidence in tidal stream, and show that dedicated revenue support can instantly generate investable projects.

“Since last year’s auction, the sector has stepped up, and the number of projects winning contracts shows that tidal energy is becoming increasingly mature. Now the EU must also step up, and help create a level playing field for ocean energy so it can realize its full potential as a mainstream renewable energy source.

“In particular, a new, improved EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy, will play a key role in making that happen.”

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