Offshore Energy Europe 2019
Wave and tidal power are developing in Europe and around the world and those energy sources, were the main focus during a three-day long international conference in Dublin this week.
The conference was a brilliant mix of presentations, exhibitions and B2B meetings. More than 350 participants from about 30 countries attended. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) followed up with the event; Unlocking the Potential of Ocean Energy Around the World. 130 participants registered for the IRENA event.
Ocean and coastal areas around the world can deliver massive amounts of wave power. The challenges are to design and build energy converters that are able to withstand the forces of the waves during stormy periodes.
The conference, exhibiton and presentations offered insights into many variations of energy converters such as oscillating water columns, floating bouys, bouys attached to infrastructure and devices with moving water driving a turbine. Installed power varies from below 100 kW up to 500 kW per device. Some of the solutions includes wind turbines for increased efficiency, aming to deliver in MW size per unit. The wave power industry is still immature. In total there is installed approximately 11 MW of wave power energy converters around the world.
Tidal power has the benefit that it is predictable and that tidal streams occur near land. The forces caused by the currents are strong and tidal power devices from 1 MW and above have been testet at different sites arond the world.
There are plans for 10-20 MW devices. Large tidal ranges or narrow passages give the best conditions for tidal power. There is a big potential for tidal power and yet, technology has to be proven and price levels have to be lowered. So far, 27 MW of tidal power devices has been installed globally.
A vast number of island communities around the world get their energy from fossil fuel and diesel generators. The prices for this energy can be as high as 30-40 cents per kWh and up to 1 USD in extreme cases. Combinations of wave, wind, solar and tidal power will probably support these islands with energy in the future.
Many island communities were represented at the conference, like Fiji and Nauru. The representatives stated that they support technology developments within marine renewable energy (MRE) and that their communities are ready to use the technical solutions when they are economically viable.
Energy storage is also an issue, due to intermittent energy production from the MRE sources. Batteries can be the solution for smaller energy systems, else hydrogen is a relevant alternative.
Trond Strømgren, Ocean Technology Innovator from GCE Ocean Technology presented the Deep Purple project for the IRENA audience. This concept offers stabile energy delivery from offshore wind by storing some of the produced energy as hydrogen in tanks on the seabed. When there is no wind, the hydrogen is converted to electric energy by using fuel cells. Offshore energy production and storage will be a benefit to many island communities as land areas are scarce and beach areas are often dedicated to tourism.
Developments and Future Activities
The wind energy industry, both onshore and offshore, has used decades developing the best technology solutions and scale up volumes and size of the turbines. The tidal and wave power industry will need time to develop commercial solutions. This must be done in parallel with an emerging global MRE market. Lessons from the wind industry can speed up the process. When the technological solutions are fully developed, the ocean industries must be ready to build, deliver, mount and operate MRE systems on the oceans and along coastlines world-wide.