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Non-nuclear energy

Key advantages of Ocean Energy Systems technology

Fission and radiation protection

Wave breaking on the Limpet oscillating water column, Islay
What are the advantages of OES technologies?

Ocean Energy Systems range in capacity between 100kWe and tens of MWe. They may be constructed in a modular manner, the physical size of the module varying according to each plant's installed capacity. Although there are size constraints for the higher capacity plants as well as site limitations, such modules may be combined in energy farms up to a cumulative capacity of 100 MWe, depending on the site conditions. Offshore installations may be combined with wind power generators and offer further opportunities to exploit the resources at an individual site. But the technology for such a hybrid has not been fully developed.

There is potential for OES along coastlines but there are only a few, usually remote, sites which offer optimal operating conditions. Such sites would be islands and sea channels which would be suitable for medium-sized systems. Although wave power and tidal currents are subject to seasonal variations, these variations are predictable, so power generation capacity and its associated costs can be forecast.

What is the future potential of OES technology?

Ocean Energy Systems can be installed anywhere providing local sea conditions allow for the commercial viability of a particular concept. Although these only produce electricity at present, ocean power may also be used for other purposes such as pumping or irrigation. A conservative estimate for tidal current potential within the EU is given as 48TWh at only 106 sites. The potential for offshore wave energy is given as 50GW, while that for the total deep-water wave energy potential is 230GW.

What specifically does it offer the EU?

A long-term EU objective is to create a sustainable energy supply based on Renewable Energy Sources (RES). OES could contribute substantially to total EU energy supply. It can be easily integrated into existing electricity grid systems and can also provide energy in remote locations through the local grid and improve local economies.

How does it contribute to achieving EU objectives?

  • The current 75GW estimate for wave and tidal current potential does not yet include future shoreline systems which could be easily integrated into breakwaters. In addition, Europe's salinity gradient potential has been estimated as 1000TWh.
  • OES technologies offer a new market for and employment opportunities in the shipbuilding and offshore construction industries.
  • OES offers an available and accessible energy source in some remote areas and installations could be tailor-made for individual local requirements.

A look into the future

PICO oscillating water column, Acores
What are the future applications of OES systems?

The main applications will be for electricity generation. As the best sites are often remote locations, the first applications are likely to be in decentralised generation and local grids. In the longer term they could be used for coastal protection or for hydrogen production at large offshore stations.

What are the R&D requirements?

  • The key issue for bringing OES technologies into the market is to prove their reliability, availability and commercial viability. This can be achieved through long-term (several years) prototype tests which will indicate the strengths and weaknesses of the technology.
  • Further research should be conducted in the following areas:
    - New concept design and testing in wave tanks and at marine sites.
    - Resource assessment and forecasting.
    - Deployment strategies.

How can we develop a stronger market for OES technologies?

In addition to technological development, market development is a prerequisite for further growth through:

Setting the legal, fiscal and political framework: This will define the conditions for grid access as well as technical standards for the grid's quality, reliability and safety. Fiscal measures, such as subsidies, VAT or eco-tax exemptions are needed to support the introduction of renewable energy and to allow renewable energy technology to compete in the market.

Marketing of OES-added value: The added value of OES systems, in terms of quality, reliability and service delivery, requires an improved common marketing effort.

Building a 21st century image: The creation of an image for OES systems as high tech but green, readily available almost everywhere, capable of being easily integrated into new or existing infrastructure, and adaptable for new applications could greatly contribute to OES market growth.