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Call for more government funding for tidal energy projects such as MeyGen

By Gordon Calder

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The UK government should increase its financial support for tidal energy projects such as MeyGen off the Caithness coast, according to an industry expert.

Jeremy Smith of QED Naval says more must be done to use tidal power and allow the sector to compete with other forms of renewable energy, such as wind, and help boost the country's energy security.

Last week the UK government awarded multiple contracts (totalling £395 million) for onshore wind, offshore wind, solar, tidal energy and other forms of renewable energy. It is the first time tidal power projects, including MeyGen in the Pentland Firth, have won contracts through the government’s competitive auction process.

The decision was hailed as "outstanding news for the far north" by local MP Jamie Stone. It means MeyGen will be able to significantly increase its output by 28 megawatts – from six at present to 34 megawatts under the next phase of its operation in the Inner Sound, between Stroma and the Caithness coast.

More could be done for tidal energy projects such as MeyGen, says industry expert
More could be done for tidal energy projects such as MeyGen, says industry expert

Mr Smith, a naval architect with 20 years' experience within the defence research and marine industry, says: "The government has certainly shown its confidence in the sector which is a huge milestone in itself, but now we need a long-term financial commitment that will allow the sector to compete commercially and offer a solution that is not only reliable and sustainable, but also more economically beneficial for the UK’s supply chain.

"As an island nation, the UK’s tides could provide 12 per cent of the country’s electricity demand. Tidal energy therefore has an exceptionally important part to play in the renewable energy mix since it is the only form of renewable energy that is predictable – it has four peak power periods during the day, every day, 365 days a year, guaranteed.

"It doesn’t rely on weather conditions either. It is abundant and this capacity, coupled with its reliability, could provide a baseload replacing gas generation and securing energy supplies."

QED, a renewables specialist company founded by Mr Smith, has patented a Subhub tidal platform – an environmentally friendly submersible foundation designed to support the commissioning, testing, transportation and installation of tidal turbines to the seabed. It could cut costs of deploying and maintaining turbines by 60 per cent and improve yields by up to 48 per cent.

The Edinburgh-based company is fund-raising to develop its tidal turbine technology to an industrial scale as offers arrive to expand its operations to England, Wales and Canada.

Mr Smith said: "The UK is a world leader in tidal energy technology, with five of the top 10 tidal companies headquartered in Scotland. In the UK alone we have 50 per cent of EU's tidal energy potential, but it’s a global market. We want to build a new industry for Scotland, and the UK, which can then be exported globally, much like the wind industry now in Denmark and Germany. We’re excited for what our new funding round could help us achieve for future energy systems, in the UK and globally."

He added: "Tidal energy has been long been treated as a younger player within renewable energy but it is integral to building a robust system that offers security of supply that we need.

"The reliable nature of tidal has the potential to compliment wind power and make up for unpredictable domestic supply deficits when they occur.

"The latest revenue support from the UK government means that tidal energy can take its rightful place in the UK’s mainstream electricity supply – but for progress to be sustained it requires a clear policy framework with continued ringfenced allowances. The UK has the chance to truly become the frontrunner of the ocean energy market globally."

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