Tidal can be long-term solution to UK energy crisis

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Tidal power can be the solution to Britain’s energy crisis, so says sea-floor turbine maker SIMEC Atlantis Energy.


The AIM-quoted engineering group, which played a key role in the development of the United Kingdom’s largest tidal project, in a Tweet highlighted the potential of tidal power as a predictable source of energy for the UK.


“We are at an energy crisis! The recent lack of wind left the UK without wind power, meanwhile the 3GW [gigawatt] energy supply from France is severely reduced due to fire damage,” Atlantis said on Twitter.


“We have 10GW of tidal energy capacity in the UK … tidal can be the solution.”


The 10 gigawatts figure refers to the UK’s estimated tidal resource, the vast majority of which remains undeveloped – and will take many years yet to develop.


Atlantis built and installed the sea bed tidal turbines that are the basis for the MyGen project, which was pioneering and is the largest project of its type. But, it scratches the surface of what a fully scaled-up UK tidal energy industry could be.


By simple maths, tidal power has the potential to plug the UK’s energy gap with renewably sourced power – and unlike wind and solar the changing strengths of tides are inherently predictable and can be planned around over the long-term.


Renewable energy strategies are supposed to be diverse and balanced, though pragmatically it is easier to strap a solar panel on a building or install windmills either on or offshore. This has meant that wind and solar projects have been realised quicker and cheaper than tidal ventures.


Phase 1 had delivered some 37 gigawatt hours of electricity at the time of the company’s financial results statement, in June 2021.


MyGen phase 1A comprised an array of four 1.5 MW turbines installed on the sea floor, connected ashore to the UK grid. The project was given approval for up to 86MW of generation.


The next phase, code named Project Stroma, is the development of a hub to allow many more turbines to connect to the grid at a significantly lower cost. It will also see the addition of two further tubines to the project.


MyGen Phase 1C, described as ‘in development’ on the Atlantis website, envisages the installation of 49 turbines to expand the project by 73.5MW. Beyond that, subsequent development phases are foreseen to capture up to 398MW of further generation capacity.


Tidal power won’t keep Britain’s fairy lights on this Christmas (apart for the approx 12,000 equivalent households or so that MyGen provides for) and it is not a salve for the geopolitical machinations of the global LNG market.


But, evidently, it is a potentially valuable renewable power option for the longer term – especially for an island economy like the UK.

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