A European Union-backed tidal energy project has received approval from the European Commission to proceed to its next stage after a successful first full year reports Andrew Williams.
So, what design, development and operational activities have been carried out to date? What have been the results? What activities does the project team plan to carry out as part of the next phase? And, looking ahead, how does the project team envisage that the outputs of the project will contribute towards the ongoing growth and commercial development of European tidal energy arrays?
TIDAL RESOURCE MONITORING
The key aims of the flagship €20 million Enabling Future Arrays in Tidal (EnFAIT) project – led by Edinburgh-based tidal energy company Nova Innovation in collaboration with eight European partner organisations, including the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the University of Edinburgh and marine engineering outfit Mojo Maritime, as well as the Belgian renewable energy company ELSA, Swedish bearing and seal manufacturer SKF, energy services firm Wood Group, French company RSK Environnement and leading UK motion control system provider HMK Technical Services – are to prove that the reliability and availability of tidal energy arrays can be significantly increased, and that the cost of tidal energy can be reduced by at least 40%. The initiative compliments earlier work carried out by Nova at its existing operational tidal power station in Bluemull Sound off the Shetland Islands in Scotland – the first-ever grid-connected offshore tidal energy turbine array.
As a spokesperson for Nova Innovation explains, the activities conducted by the project team in the first year have included the re-instrumentation of the three existing turbines at Bluemull Sound in an effort to ‘collect improved performance data’ and carry out extensive tidal resource monitoring activities to ‘build up a detailed understanding of the array site and its characteristics.’ The team has also worked on gaining the necessary site consents and permissions for the planned expansion of the array to six turbines – and developed and verified ‘detailed designs for the new turbines and their subsea connections.’
In addition, the team has developed a number of key performance indicators (KPIs), which are now being employed to ‘analyse periods of better-than-expected operations and identify aspects for potential improvement, so that designs and maintenance approaches can be improved.’ This process also bolstered both Nova and ORE Catapult to nurture a better understanding of ‘what tidal turbine and array data should be recorded and how.’
INCREASING COMMERCIAL VIABILITY
According to the spokesperson, work carried out throughout the next stage will ‘help to continue the success that has been established after the first year of the project’s operation.’
“The next stages of the project over the coming months will see the continued operation of the existing three turbines in Bluemull Sound, collecting performance data to further inform the understanding of the tidal array, whilst in Edinburgh, the procurement and build of the fourth turbine T4 will take place,” they say.
Ultimately, the Nova spokesperson is confident that the successful delivery of the EnFAIT project ‘will significantly increase the commercial viability of tidal power’ – in the process demonstrating what they describe as a ‘significantly reduced’ levelised cost of energy (LCOE), which will ‘boost the confidence of potential clients and investors.’
“EnFAIT is designed to generate significant ‘learning by doing’ that is not specific to one type or scale of technology, but is immediately applicable to the wider ocean energy industry,” they say.
“The project will showcase the positive impact of ocean energy on the natural environment and local community, highlighting the huge potential benefits of the sector for European industrial output and employment,” they add.