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Crown Estate identifies "tens of gigawatts" of UK marine energy potential

Out-Law News | 17 Oct 2012 | 8:00 am | 2 min. read

Development of the UK's wave and tidal potential could generate "tens of gigawatts" of renewable energy, according to a new report. 

The Crown Estate, which manages one of the largest property and marine portfolios in the UK, said that its findings (10-page / 600KB PDF) could help inform industry and government about the potential for future projects.

"While the science of wave and tidal resource assessment is still emerging, and future work will clarify the resources that are practically available, it is clear that wave and tidal energy could contribute substantially to the UK's electricity needs," said Rob Hastings, director of the Crown Estate's energy and infrastructure portfolio. "Improving understanding about the extent and locations of resources will help to accelerate development in a sustainable way."

However the Crown Estate stressed in the report that its findings were purely "theoretical estimates" of wave and tidal energy resources available and did not take into account existing sea uses, sensitivities or environmental factors likely to prevent or constrain deployments in practice.

The Crown Estate worked with a number of organisations with responsibilities for marine planning including the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in England, the Northern Ireland Executive, Scottish Government and Welsh Government to produce the report.

The report estimates a total 118GW in potential energy generation capacity available through the deployment of wave energy, tidal stream and tidal range technologies including barrage systems and lagoon systems. The majority of the UK's wave resources, estimated at 27GW, are located in Scottish waters with significant resources also in southwest England and Wales. An estimated 32GW in potential tidal stream resources are located in English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish waters, while the largest single area of tidal range resources is situated in the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary.

A large area stretching from Bristol through Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly was designated the UK's first 'marine energy park' for the development of wave and tidal-powered technologies in January this year. The region is already home to the Cornwall Wave Hub, part of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), as well as the 'nursery' testing site at Falmouth and research facilities at Plymouth and Exeter Universities and in Bristol.

The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area in the far north of Scotland, which incorporates research and testing base the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), was designated as a second 'park' in July. However, last month Niall Stuart of Scottish Renewables warned that the "massive costs" faced by developers looking to connect wave and tidal projects in the region to the grid could potentially hold back investment.

On a visit to Scotland last week, Energy Secretary Edward Davey announced the creation of a 'steering group' to look into industry concerns about the speed of progress of renewable projects in the Scottish Islands. Among other issues the group will identify and assess options for addressing or mitigating the impact of high transmission charging faced by renewable energy generators in the Scottish Islands.