Monday 25th August 2014


August 25, 2014

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Wind Watch

The lost city of Atlantis may inspire excitement among myth-lovers and serious scientists, but we’re more interested in its business namesake.

Developer Atlantis Resources announced last week that it has secured £50m to finance the 86MW pilot phase of a “pioneering” offshore project, called MeyGen, off the north coast of Scotland. The pilot phase involves developing an array of four turbines, which are set to be commissioned next year. Eventually, it wants to build an 398MW array of 269 turbines.

This announcement is likely to provoke two comments among our hardened readers. First, that they’ve never heard of an offshore wind developer called Atlantis; and, second, that it is strange that it plans to use 1.5MW turbines when 4MW machines are now standard. Both are good points.

The reason for any confusion is simple: MeyGen is a wave tidal scheme — the developer wants it to be the “world’s largest wave tidal project” — and the turbines are set to go on the sea floor. Well, with a developer called Atlantis they couldn’t really go anywhere else.

The emergence of wave tidal could raise some significant headaches for those investing in offshore wind — as well as some interesting opportunities.

If tidal technology can be scaled and commercialised then it would be serious competition for offshore wind. Offshore wind farms are, at present, the only serious option for building renewable energy schemes out to sea, but the emergence of wave tidal would change this.

We would expect tidal to find favour with those who complain that offshore wind farms are ugly, unreliable and kill birds. Tidal arrays would have none of those issues, and would be no worse than wind farms in the amount of disruption for underwater species. Wind works, but it is still difficult to make a case for it when politicians are so willing to find fault.

But the wind industry can’t be afraid of such competition. It simply needs to adapt, and there are ways that wind investors can benefit from the growth of this rival technology.

Tim Cornelius, chief executive of Atlantis Resources, has talked in recent years about the potential for developing marine energy farms that are capable of producing both wind and tidal power. Such projects would enable developers and investors to gain more value from the land they control offshore; and continue producing energy when the wind isn’t blowing.

Of course, this won’t work in all cases. Many sites won’t be appropriate for both wind and tidal. New wind farms are being developed further out to sea and in deeper waters, which would clearly make building an array of tidal turbines on the seabed far more challenging. But if it enables some investors to gain more value from sites then it must be good.

Growth in the wave tidal sector would also open opportunities for businesses who already provide services to the offshore wind sector. From vessel operators and seabed surveyors to manufacturers and cable installers, there are huge opportunities to use their knowledge on tidal projects.

There’s no point trying to hold back the tide.

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