In Depth: Marine Energy at a Tipping Point?

If you have been following the news in the wave and tidal sector recently, you cannot be blamed for thinking the sector is at a critical point. However, 2015 promises to be a year full of opportunities for the Dutch maritime industry.

Siemens decided, after a strategic review, to sell off Marine Current Turbines: the leading tidal turbine developer with the highest number of production hours out there. Pelamis Wave Power, the red sea snake which followed a diligent development path over a period of 16 years, has gone into administration. Aquamarine Power is downsizing. German hydropower giant Voith is selling off its direct-drive turbine HyTide, rated at one megawatt, with projects lined up in France and the United Kingdom. And just to finish it off, last year Bloomberg revised down its forecasts for global tidal stream and wave power deployment in 2020, by eleven per cent and 72 per cent respectively. Clearly the industry has been overpromising and underdelivering.

Yet I believe we are reaching a tipping point for the sector. And one with a prominent role for the Dutch maritime industry! Let me be clear, a tipping point in this case is a positive thing, it is the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development. (It also is a good read: ‘The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’ is the debut by Malcolm Gladwell)

2015 will see an explosion of tidal energy activities in the Netherlands. A first of its kind floating tidal turbine platform will be installed at the offshore test site of the Tidal Testing Centre in the Marsdiep this year. The consortium lead by Bluewater including Van Oord, Damen Shipyards, TKF, NIOZ and Vryhof Anchors will test various tidal turbines supplied by Schottel and Tocardo. The latter will also install a unique array of three turbines using a clever dam-integrated solution in the Afsluitdijk this year: a finger exercise for the three megawatt project expected to commence in the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge barrier in Zeeland.

Later this year the Dutch government is expected to start a public tendering process to open up the Brouwersdam to improve the water quality. Bidders will be encouraged to consider integrating tidal energy in their scope: because it can be done! Investor Dutch Expansion Capital is keeping its coals in the fire in France with another floating solution developed by Tidalys. Having build a track record in the industry, composite supplier Airborne is expecting more orders to manufacture blades for various tidal turbine developers.

2015 is also the year of international opportunities. Never before did we see such a sharp increase in sites either consented or consent applied for in the United Kingdom, France and Canada followed by keen interest from South East Asia and South America to follow suit. Oceans of opportunities for the Dutch maritime industry, please get involved and be part of tipping this point!

Peter Scheijgrond
Director MET-support
Member of the Board Dutch Energy from Water Association

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