Wave and Tidal Energy on the Rise: But Will it Work?

The wave and tidal energy sectors may see around $1.2 billion in investment over the next five years, according to a new report from the analysis firm Douglas-Westwood. That could result in around 150 MW of global installed capacity. The big question is: Will those technologies last in harsh ocean conditions? And will they produce meaningful amounts of electricity?

Companies have been developing marine energy devices for more than 100 years – but success has been limited.

With more advanced materials and a long track record of failures to learn from, a number of companies are working on promising technologies. However, leading technology developers like Aquamarine Power, Atlantis Resources Corporation, Ocean Power Technologies, OpenHydro, Ocean Renewable Power Company and Pelamis have been secretive about the performance of their devices.

Because there is little data to evaluate, it’s still uncertain how successful wave and tidal companies will be as larger projects are deployed.

The report from Douglas Westwood highlights the many challenges the sector faces: Reliability, cost of electricity, environmental protection issues and availability of project finance. There are many unknowns facing the industry that may prevent companies from reaching the 150-MW projection outlined in the report.

With that said, more governments are providing R&D funding and incentives for project developers, providing a needed boost for these early-stage companies.

According to Douglas-Westwood, The UK, Canada and US will be the three biggest markets through 2015. The UK leads with 110 MW of projected installations. Driven by a strong tidal resource, excellent R&D and support, Canada is the second largest market. The US is also making progress, again with much R&D funding attracting developers.


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