Global insights: Tidal energy in the North Atlantic

3 min

Earlier this year we reported on the exciting developments taking place with wave energy converters near Scotland as scientists and renewable energy innovators harnessed the awesome energy capability from the oceans and waves in that part of the world.

Now, in a similar part of northern Europe, two companies have just been given the green light to install major tidal kite systems in the Faroe Islands - a self-governing archipelago in the North Atlantic, part of the Kingdom of Denmark, comprising of 18 jagged volcanic islands in the rough seas between Iceland and Norway – which could have a significant impact on the local electricity mix.

Leading marine energy developer Minesto and the Faroese electric utility company SEV (who in February of this year signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) together to collaborate on integrating tidal energy into the Faroese electricity mix) were recently granted the necessary approvals that cover two DG100 tidal kite system will be installed in the Vestmannasund strait of the Faroe Islands.

Minesto’s marine energy technology, called Deep Green, generates electricity from low-flow tidal streams and ocean currents by a unique and patented principle similar to a stunt kite flying in the wind.

According to a report published by Minesto, it’s estimated that it could be possible to utilise the equivalent of 150–200MW installed capacity for tidal stream energy production in the Faroe Islands. SEV stated that the inherent predictability of tidal stream energy gives it an advantage over less predictable renewable energy sources.

An added geographical advantage for this project, highlighted by Minesto, is the time difference between peak flows in the different sounds between the country’s 18 major islands. This means that by installing tidal turbines at different locations, tidal energy is always available to enable renewable baseload power from the ocean.

To implement the project, Minesto was granted public funding of approximately €3.5 million through the European Union’s EIC Accelerator and the Swedish Energy Agency for the Vestmannasund project and the development of the DG100 marine energy converter.

Closer to home there remains significant challenges in tidal energy technology, innovation and investment in this country.  Prior analysis by ARENA stated that Australia is home to some of the largest tides in the world with the capacity to make a significant contribution to Australia’s future energy mix. However, ARENA further states that knowledge of Australia’s tidal resource, its spatial extent and technical implementation remain insufficient for the tidal energy industry, regulators, policy makers and research community to make any assessment of their risks for investment in potential projects.

As more is learned from global innovators in northern Europe and elsewhere, and the technology continues to advance, the potential for tidal energy to contribute to Australia’s energy mix could one day be as vast and abundant as the seas themselves.

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