Europe Just Unlocked the Potential of Ocean Energy
Tidal turbines work by harnessing the tides.
A lot of energy sits within the turbulent churn of the world’s oceans and sustainability advocates and experts want to extract it, much in the same way solar panels harvest sunlight and windmills cultivate air.
The European Union has been investing billions of euros in this field, and its first tidal stream turbine off the coast of Scotland recently completed its first operational year, achieving results far better than expected, according to CNBC.
The turbine, which is known as the SR2000 and is still technically in a testing phase, was able to develop three megawatts of energy over the year, enough to power 830 households in the United Kingdom and at times creating enough electricity to meet a quarter of the Orkney Islands’ needs, which has a population of 22,000.
“The SR2000’s phenomenal performance has set a new benchmark for the tidal industry. Despite being an R&D project, and it being our first full-scale turbine, its first year of testing has delivered a performance level approaching that of widely deployed mature renewable technologies,” Andrew Scott, chief executive officer of Scotrenewables Tidal Power, which deployed the turbine, said in a press release.
While 850 homes is not significant in the grand scheme of supplying renewable energy to the world, the SR2000 was more productive in 12 months than all tidal energy created in Scotland in the 12 years leading up to 2016, according to the company.
Scotrenewables Tidal Power
That means that tidal power could soon become a key part of renewable energy portfolios. Globally, the world generated 25 megawatts of tidal energy in 2017.
Tidal turbines work by harnessing the tides, which move back and forth in a predictable manner, unlike ocean currents that move unpredictably in one direction. Machines float on the surface of the ocean, unfurling underwater turbines that are moved by the tide.
Because the machines are relatively close to shore, they’re easier to manage than technologies deployed deeper at sea, and maintenance crews can readily travel out to make repairs. This past year, the SR20000 was able to withstand violent storms, proving the technology’s resilience, according to the company.
Harnessing deep sea currents, on other hand, is a relatively untested proposal that scientists are still trying to crack, but the potential is immense.
As a point of comparison, offshore wind farms, for instance, have been deployed to enormous success and one study found that an offshore wind farm the size of Greenland could generate enough electricity to power the world.
In the years ahead, Scotrenewables will continue testing the SR2000 and fine-tuning its capacity with the goal of selling versions by 2020. The EU is supporting the company through a renewable energy strategy that has a budget of $92.18 billion, CNBC notes.
By 2050, the EU hopes to generate around 10% of its energy needs from tidal power.
“The SR2000 has completed the job of demonstrating that we have a breakthrough technology and we will now be shifting all our focus and resources towards building on that success with a product which we are confident can enable a new industry created around a predictable renewable energy source,” Scott said.