Comments : Wave power could be the next big renewable energy source

Posted: 16/05/2012

Britain certainly has the capabilities of leading the world in exploiting the power of the sea, but if we don’t act fast, we are under threat of being overtaken by foreign rivals that could dominate the multi billion pound industry.

Experts predict that up to 20% of Britain future electricity could come from wave power but the equipment to make this prediction come true is still in its early development days, according to a report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee.

The British Isles are ideally placed to make the most of the surrounding sea and strong tides which could bring vital benefits including manufacturing jobs to the country. But there are worries that history is about to repeat itself when Britain led the way with wind power technology, until it was leapfrogged by Denmark who now supply the world with wind turbines.

The Government have made a target for 200 to 300MW of marine capacity by 2020 and it is believed the business could be worth £340 billion by 2050, creating 68,000 new jobs in the process. Unlike wind or solar power, wave power is less variable and the UK has the largest wave and tidal resource in Europe.

Unfortunately, the Energy and Climate Change Committee raised concerns over the lack of funding accessible for marine renewables. The Department for Energy and Climate Change have created a £20 million fund with the Scottish Government creating a further £18 million. Both counties capitals are being prompted to work jointly with developers to invest in wave power technology by combining their funds.

At the moment, the rate of generating electricity from tide farms is estimated to be around 4 times higher than the cost of an onshore wind farm, but the costs are expected to drop by 2020 to a level that's more commercially viable. The National Grid will need to have better dedication to developing the manufacturing skills needed to make the trade a worldwide success.

Seven out of eight of the world’s wave power trials are in progress around Britain including the Orkneys, Strangford Lough and North Cornwall. At the beginning of 2012, ministers declared plans for the UK’s first Marine Energy Park in the South West, aimed at attracting engineers, scientists and surveyors to the site. Similar plans have been made for Northern Ireland and Scotland.

What are your thoughts about wave power? Do you think the UK could the led the way with this type of renewable energy or like the wind farms, another country will jump on the bandwagon and be more sucessful?

Amanda McGovern, Pali Ltd

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