Azara Blog: Carbon Trust promotes wave power

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Date published: 2006/01/25

The BBC says:

Wave and tidal power can provide a fifth of the UK's electricity needs, according to a new report.

The Carbon Trust, which helps firms develop low-emission technologies, urges the government to increase support for wave and tidal concepts.

They are currently costly ways of generating electricity but the Trust's report says prices will come down.

Investment now could help Britain establish a global lead in these technologies, it says.

In its 18-month research programme the Trust has looked at wave and tidal stream generation, leaving out other approaches to tidal power such as barrages which it describes as "mature".

A barrage on the Rance estuary in northern France has been operating since the 1960s but the concept has been restricted by concerns over cost and local environmental impact.

Wave-based devices generate electricity from movements of the sea surface, whereas tidal stream installations sit on the sea floor and use the regular ebb and flow of tides.

"Wave and tidal stream technologies are at an earlier stage of development than solar and wind which are more mature," said the Carbon Trust's programme engineer, John Callaghan.

"It will cost more than other renewables for the first few hundred megawatts generated, but beyond that there is potential for costs to reduce," he told the BBC News website.

Despite Britain's long shoreline and the vast power contained in its breakers and tides, the Carbon Trust believes only about one fifth of the country's electricity could economically come from the sea.

It says that wave farms could generate 50 terawatt-hours (TWh - one thousand million kilowatt-hours) per year, and tidal stream installations a further 18TWh.

These figures compare to the current UK total consumption of 350TWh per year.

"You need a good site for wave or tidal energy, but you also need access to the site, you need a grid connection," said John Callaghan.

"There is particular potential in north-west Scotland and south-west England; about half of the total tidal stream resource is in the Pentland Firth [between the Scottish mainland and the Orkneys]."

The report says the government should increase support for these incipient technologies and develop "a clear long-term policy framework of support to the sector to give greater investment certainty".

While the Department of Trade and Industry does provide financial incentives, the government's energy review, launched on Monday, barely mentions marine technologies.

What a surprise, every Tom, Dick and Harry in the "renewable" energy business wants massive government subsidies to get it off the ground. But at least the Carbon Trust seems to be spending some money on some (potentially) useful reports rather than just the endless stream of glossy adverts they seem to waste much of their (taxpayer-funded) budget on. Unfortunately you have to take all these kinds of reports with a pinch of salt, they are largely (inevitably) based on guesswork. And there might indeed be some environmental downsides to such installations, or it might prove "beneficial" by some measure, nobody really knows. But the "solution" to the energy "problem" is almost certainly going to involve a wide range of technologies, and wave power could be part of the basket.

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