Saturday, June 22, 2024

Ocean Energy: Promising new technologies to help Europe achieve its ambitious climate goals

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As Europe aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050 and invest significantly in renewable forms of energy over the coming decades, there’s one source of green energy that shows great promise – and it’s not even green, more of a blue. The oceans offer enormous potential as a source of clean, green energy, and the technologies to realise this, whilst still to fully mature, should definitely be on the radar. In this CORDIS Results Pack, we introduce you to 10 EU-funded projects that are paving the way for the wider development and deployment of these ocean energy innovations.


Climate Change and Environment

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Ocean energy technology is an emerging technology and there is still some way to go on the road to full commercialisation. But anchored in innovative demonstrations across Europe, often led by inspired and idealistic SMEs, they truly offer an exciting opportunity for green investors. In short, they deserve to be much more widely considered as a viable long-term form of renewable energy, alongside their more widely known solar and wind cousins. It has even been forecast that by 2050, under the right conditions, ocean energy could contribute around 10 % of EU power demand.

The benefits of ocean energy

One of the key benefits of ocean energy technologies is that if well designed and well constructed, ocean energy installations are much less likely to negatively impact ocean biodiversity. In many regions, land is a precious resource, therefore siting onshore solutions such as wind and solar can be controversial to local populations. This is not the case with ocean energy technologies, particularly subsea installations as they are hidden under the surface of the water, out of sight, and not competing for scarce land.

Another important factor for the consideration of ocean energy solutions is their reliability – unlike solar power or wind power, tides and ocean currents are almost 100 % predictable, with the endless flows guaranteeing continuous energy availability. Finally, these technologies tend to be energy-rich – moving water is much denser than moving air, creating excellent conditions for efficient energy conversion.

From a socio-economic point of view, installing ocean energy technology can also greatly benefit coastal communities, as they bring high-skilled jobs to the area and boost local economies. The manufacturing of the devices will most likely take place close to where they are to be deployed, and maintenance of the devices, when necessary, would most logically be sourced from local communities.

Indeed, the ocean energy sector could be worth up to EUR 53 billion by 2050, potentially translating into 400 000 jobs in Europe, with many of those being based in coastal regions close to the installations.

From demonstration to the market and beyond

Horizon 2020 has been active in providing support to projects that have been working to demonstrate the reliability and robustness of ocean energy technologies, as well as to make ocean energy cost-competitive with other technologies and clearly demonstrate its market potential. In particular, the Results Pack highlights 10 such EU-funded projects.

For example, the FloTEC project successfully completed the first commercial floating tidal turbine demonstrator, the O2, which is the world’s most powerful technology of its kind and has the power to meet the electricity needs of over 1 700 homes in the United Kingdom’s Orkney Islands. The MegaRoller project has been engineering a new power take-off system to bring the emerging wave market closer to profitability, whilst IMAGINE supported a compact European consortium led by an innovative Italian company to create a device that is now a promising option for converting wave motion into electricity.

Then we have the OPERA project, which embarked on a 31-month trial of an electricity-generating floating ocean device to test its viability and harvest a vast amount of data critical to the advancement of ocean energy technology. The TIPA project designed and built an innovative generator for tidal technology, revealing it to be almost a third cheaper than current devices, making tidal power a more cost-effective solution.

Meanwhile, the RealTide project has helped to identify the key factors behind tidal turbine failure and put forward solutions to ensure that the ocean energy sector becomes more efficient and economically viable. Finally, the DTOceanPlus project is developing a suite of innovative design tools that will help to decrease the technological risks for the next development stages of ocean technology and significantly contribute to an increase in technology performance.

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