Wave and tidal turbine funding

Businesses with new wave and tidal turbine concepts are being invited to compete for up to £12m of investment during 2010 to help develop their technology.

The funds are being provided by the government-backed Technology Strategy Board (TSB) through two new collaborative R&D competitions.

The first £9m call includes an investment of up to £2m from the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA). The competition opens in March and focuses on driving down the cost of energy and improving the reliability of wave and tidal-stream energy devices.

A second £3m call, due to open in September, will focus on supporting the deployment of pre-commercial full-scale devices installed and operating in the sea. The programme will monitor the performance of devices and ensure that they are reliable and can be installed and maintained effectively. This is specifically aimed at businesses that are already working towards full-scale deployment of their technology.

Iain Gray, chief executive of the TSB, said wave and tidal-stream technologies are at an early stage of development and will only be a significant part of the renewable energy mix needed in the UK by 2050 if a number of challenges are tackled.

These challenges, he said, range from proving which technological solutions will most successfully harness marine energy, to reducing the cost of the energy produced to make the technology competitive with other renewable energy solutions.

The competitions are working in tandem with the Carbon Trust’s Marine Renewable Proving Fund. Both activities aim to advance wave and tidal-stream technologies and business opportunities to help achieve the government’s renewable energy targets.

According to the government’s Low Carbon Industrial Strategy, wave and tidal-stream technologies could potentially provide up to 20 per cent of UK electricity needs. Their contribution to the UK 2020 renewable energy targets is estimated to be around 1.3GW.

Along with supporting the TSB competitions, the South West RDA is also behind a £42m flagship marine-renewables project, entitled ‘Wave Hub’.

The project will create a grid-connected ‘socket’ on the seabed approximately 10 miles off the north coast of Cornwall where arrays of wave-energy conversion devices can be connected and tested.

Wave Hub is funded with £12.5m from the South West RDA, £20m from the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme and £9.5m from the UK government. Construction is under way and the first wave-energy devices are expected to be deployed in 2011.