Interview: Government support essential to industrialize tidal

  • Business & Finance


A clear support framework, similar to that provided to the solar and wind industries which allowed them to progressively reduce their cost of energy, is also necessary for tidal energy sector, according to OpenHydro’s Chief Commercial Officer, Mr. Brendan Corr.

In the light of the recently announced tidal energy project in Japan, as well as other major tidal energy projects set for delivery this year in France and Canada, Tidal Energy Today spoke with Mr. Brendan Corr, CCO of the company at the forefront of tidal energy industry – OpenHydro.

Dear Mr. Corr can you tell us more about OpenHydro’s involvement in the recently announced tidal energy project off Japan?

Brendan Corr
Brendan Corr

We are currently in the planning phase along with our consortium partners. This 16-metre turbine will be the first commercial-scale tidal device to be deployed in Japanese waters. Through this demonstration project we will work with our Consortium partners to foster local skills and expertise. In future, we will manufacture devices for commercial scale arrays in Japan, underlining again the potential of the industry to create jobs and economic benefit where significant tidal resource is available. As such, this first device is an essential step in the development of a tidal industry in Japan.

OpenHydro is developing tidal energy turbines based on open-centre technology. What can you tell us about the technology itself, and other innovations OpenHydro has in store for the future?

OpenHydro’s Open-Centre Turbine comprises four key components: a horizontal axis rotor, a direct-drive permanent magnet generator, a hydrodynamic duct and a subsea gravity base foundation. Simplicity is a key advantage of the device, with no lubricants, seals or gearbox, resulting in reduced maintenance requirements. The turbines, supported by subsea base foundations, are placed directly onto the seabed, deep enough so as not to pose a hazard to shipping. OpenHydro has developed a specialist methodology for deploying its Open-Centre Turbines, allowing all preparatory works to be performed in the controlled working environment of a harbour and without any drilling or piling required.

Can you tell us more about the assembly plant for OpenHydro’s tidal turbines which will be constructed in Cherbourg?

We are developing a purpose-built tidal turbine assembly facility at Cherbourg Port. The 5,500m2 purpose-built facility, will act as an industrial hub for the delivery of the Normandie Hydro project for EDF Energies Nouvelles – a 14MW array set to be deployed in 2018. This project will see the installation of an array of seven tidal turbines in the Raz Blanchard, supplying electricity to 13,000 local residents. Work is ongoing with the Ports of Normandy Authority (PNA) and the French government agency, SHEMA, to finalise plans for the ambitious project.

The tidal turbine sector is expected to create hundreds of jobs in Cherbourg once OpenHydro begins the commercial scale production of tidal arrays from 2020. The facility will initially have a production capacity of 25 turbines annually, with planned expansion work on the factory expected to increase production by up to 50 turbines per year. This purpose built facility will act as the industrial hub for the delivery of the Normandie Hydro project and will position us for large scale development in the French market. This is an essential step on the path to commercialisation and will ensure OpenHydro is well placed to address the world-wide €200 billion tidal energy market.

Photo courtesy of DCNS/OpenHydro

Apart from the projects mentioned so far, what is the next step in OpenHydro’s commercialisation strategy?

This year we are delivering two of the world’s first grid-connected tidal arrays in France and Canada. These projects will give us key insights into the operation of our turbines at array scale and are crucial steps in the path to commercialisation. The transition from research and development to industrial supply is underpinned by the expertise and support OpenHydro receives from DCNS. OpenHydro has visibility on 3.9GW of prospects internationally including new territories particularly in Asia Pacific. Of this, 1.7GW are actively being progressed.

What are the most promising markets for OpenHydro’s tidal technology?

We are active in Canada, Europe and Asia and have many promising prospects in these markets. We are collaborating with potential industrial partners, customers and supply chain partners to realise our industrial strategy and develop commercial scale projects in areas with sigificant tidal resource.

How do you think tidal energy industry will develop in the future and what measures are necessary to be taken for ensuring the industry is on the right track?

With global energy demand set to increase, there is an undeniable and urgent need to develop new renewable energy technologies. The potential energy that could be harvested from tides on a global scale is enormous. The global value of the tidal energy market is estimated at €200 billion. Given the predictable nature of tidal energy and the size of the resource, tidal represent a very significant part of the future energy mix.

The role of governments to implement consistent and coherent policies remains essential in bringing tidal energy to industrial scale. We need a clear support framework, similar to that provided to the solar and wind industries which allowed them to progressively reduce their cost of energy.

OpenHydro has a unique proposition for governments: our ability to combine achievement of renewable targets with industrial activity and job creation.

Interview prepared by Amir Garanovic

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