Renewable Energy

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Wave & Tidal Devices – Overview

The United Kingdom's wave and tidal stream energy industry is the current global leader, with more installed capacity than the rest of the world combined. Our strength has been built on established British marine engineering skills, the creation of world-first testing facilities and the strength of the energy resource found in UK waters. The UK is proud to have developed the first commercial scale wave and tidal stream projects in 1998 and 2003 respectively but the industry is now on the cusp of commercial viability as we move through the phases of development.

Up until this point, the focus has been on proving the technology works and reducing costs through the operation of single device demonstrators. At the world's primary demonstration site, The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), the industry has proven a total of 8 tidal and 5 wave utility scale devices with other sites adding a further 3 tidal and 2 wave demonstration devices. The EMEC website notes that there are 31 wave energy and 32 tidal stream energy developers active in the UK and, as of the middle of 2012, the industry has produced in excess of 8 Gigawatt hours.

We are now looking forward to the first small wave and tidal stream farms, known as arrays. The UK is set to lead the world into the next phase by installing the first arrays in our waters, overcoming the complex engineering challenges and the various unknowns that face this new industry.

While the current installed capacity is fairly modest at just over 5 megawatts (MWs), the industry is on track to deliver up to 300 MWs by 2020.  The Crown Estate has completed several rounds of leasing and has now granted leases totalling 1.8GW, which has laid out a trajectory of growth in the industry on the mid-term and enables projects across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It is in the next decade that the growth will really ramp up and it is likely that installation will reach the multi-gigawatt (GW) scale, making a meaningful contribution to the UK's energy mix. On the longer term, the Wave and Tidal industries have the potential to deliver up to 60 GWs of electricity, 75% of the UK's current needs.

Not only will wave and tidal stream energy technology help to decarbonise our energy supply, generating electricity from our own resources increases security of supply and reduces our dependence on imported fossil fuels.  It is set to create 19,500 jobs by 2035 and contribute towards continued economic prosperity as we export our skills, services and technology to the growing global market, which is forecast to be worth £6 Billion annually by 2050.