I think the most important fact to keep in mind is that tidal energy is more predictable than wind and look at how that is regarded. Tidal energy can also be used in desalination, hence providing clean energy and a clean water resource for developing nations.


Louise Gray | Tidal Today

EarthToys Renewable Energy Article
I think the most important fact to keep in mind is that tidal energy is more predictable than wind and look at how that is regarded. Tidal energy can also be used in desalination, hence providing clean energy and a clean water resource for developing nations.
Earthtoys Interview - Tidal Today

Louise Gray, Director and New Energy Researcher for Tidal Today

Graduating from Edinburgh University, 2004 after reading Nature Resource Management and producing a thesis on how the UK could meet its 2010 energy targets via G.I S. mapping techniques Louise embarked on the graduate program Teach First. This two year scheme is based in London’s’ most challenging schools and aims to produce future leaders. Louise gained a distinction in the Foundations of Leadership at Tanaka Business School, London and applied this to Teach First Schools Innovation Project and won the annual award. In the summer 2007 Louise commenced her most recent venture by launching Tidal Today.

1. What is tidal today?

Tidal Today aims to create a community of people whose sole focus is to unleash the true potential of Tidal Energy by addressing key challenges the industry faces and ensuring stakeholders harness the opportunities available. Aiming to become as important as the Financial Times is to the business world, our intension is to provide original, pertinent and independent information which will provide a 360 perspective and allow the industry to be continually driven forward through blogs, interactive debates, news articles, newsletters and coming soon social dinners to increase your networking potential and a social network to allow you to maintain those all important contacts.

2. What is the primary aim of the summit and was the 2007 event a success?

The event was about how you can successfully make the transition from the lab to the sea as you scale your prototype for commercial deployment. The way I think this event differed to existing events is its practical approach, no more empty classroom theory but up front honest accounts of lessons learnt and more importantly solutions generated following real sea experience.

In an emerging sector such as this, every individual success brings success for the entire industry. Unfortunately the same is true for failure, which generally receives more media coverage. By sharing our success, we will be able to better focus both time and resource ultimately will save money and drive the industry forward.

I was really pleased with the event, it has to be said that dedicating two whole days to just tidal energy was some what ambitious but, at the event I received a lot of compliments on the content, superb speakers and the great atmosphere which I feel reflects the energy within this pioneering industry.

3. Why did you decide to start this organization and event and where do you go from here?

Renewable energy is always something I have been passionate about and tidal energy just makes sense owing to the vast resource we have available which is largely unexploited. Two of the main criticisms renewable technologies face is that they are unreliable and unsightly. Tidal is predictable and, considering most designs at present are at least partly submerged so as not to have to battle with the force of unpredictable waves, it avoids both of these issues beautifully.

The event united the very best people in the industry to share knowledge, meet and do business with fellow experts. At the end of the day, if I intend to supply market intelligence to the tidal industry then I need to have a clear understanding of what is needed, how the industry operates and what matters to individuals working within the industry. Social networks only work if people value them as a credible resource. I think whatever happens in the future with regards to global travel due to increasing pressure about climate change issues you will never be able to remove the human element to business- people love meeting people and no webinar I feel, will totally replace this.

From here on my visions for tidal today is to actually expand into new fields so that I can encompass all offshore renewable technologies. Currently on the horizon is wave energy, offshore wind and global tidal energy markets-North America in particular. But of course we realise the importance of continuing to produce sector specific news for each new arena we venture into and so research will continue to be the backbone of my work. Presently the tidal today  website is undergoing a face lift and will soon be revealed as a central news portal offering dedicated newsletters written by guest editors selected from the industry, a bank of reports, tidal specific company directory and updates on the latest developments in technology, environmental aspects, legislation and funding, so you can keep up to date at all times. We will also be kick starting an online tidal energy social network allowing you a more personal way to keep in touch, gain new contacts, add your thoughts to interactive debates and blog about current issues which you think need discussing. So watch this space, it will only happen if you get involved and please feel free to give me a call and share your ideas.

4.What is the state of the tidal industry today?

I would say that tidal energy is moving towards the end of its research and development phase and heading towards pre commercial testing. Technology needs to be proven and seen as being reliable whilst at sea and this is by no means an easy feat! This industry has great potential and certainly fits in with society’s need for clean energy production, if we are to meet our sustainable development goals. There is no denying that starting anything new is difficult, especially when you consider the regulations and in particular environmental constraints which at this moment in time have to be more cautious owing to uncertainly about the effects tidal devices could have on their marine environment.

Generating energy is a balance - as a customer we have become accustomed to cheap energy which with the increasing price of oil is already coming to an end. Utilities companies need to be able to ensure energy security whilst governments are increasingly being pushed to show their support by looking seriously at alternative energy. The question is - are we willing to pay for it? Oil and gas have in the past received tax breaks to encourage development in the North Sea and wind energy has received subsidies to allow it to develop into a commercial entity.  Newer renewable technologies are unfortunately in the shadow of their sexier counter parts which have already made it such as wind and solar.

Tidal has terrific potential not only allowing developed countries to clean up their act but offering a very real opportunity for developing island communities to advance their development without compromising society or the environment, it definitely is a watch this space. I think 2009 will be a big year for larger testing.

5. What is the potential for the tidal industry in the near future ?

In the very near future don’t expect your utility company to be offering you an option to switch to tidal generated electricity. We are a little way off powering your kettle at the moment, but this is mainly due to a lack of grid connected tidal devices and not a lack of technology-this can be a contentious point! Test centers will continue to lead the way allowing devices to gain real sea experience and greatly advance their ability to gain a consenting license. Most test centers are already fully booked a couple of years in advance which just shows the level of activity in this area and of course new test centers are being planned all the time with the next one in Nova Scotia. But if you are based near the east river of New York a tidal device is currently powering the lights in a parking lot. A highlight I think is for the 2012 Olympics one of the iconic symbols will be a moon clock which is powered entirely by the tides, I think this project captured the imagination and innovation of the industry perfectly and might make a few more people think about the energy that surrounds us within the tides. Only time will tell, wind has been undervalued and 2008 has been quoted as the year to invest in wind compared to solar which has been grossly overvalued. I think its hard to encapsulate the true value of a renewable technology as the value of protecting our environment does not fit neatly on a balance sheet. One thing is certain however, the best of tidal is definitely yet to come.

6. What are the main barriers for successful implementation of tidal energy solutions?

It’s the same old story really-simpler licensing laws, access to the grid and increased capital investment. Due to the tidal industry being in its infancy then it’s hard to predict how it will perform over the course of the year. Utility companies need to offer a flexible integration model to make it easier for developers to get connected - this is where ROC (renewable obligation certificates) are seen as being less attractive when compared to their European counterpart FITs (feed in tariffs).

The availability and cost of suitable vessels to actually deploy a turbine is also a problem due to the incredibly busy oil industry which has the money and the certainty of work to keep vessels booked up for months if not years in advance.

Europe appears to have a more suck it and see approach which has allowed smaller prototypes to be tested. One of the things which became clear at the tidal summit is that developers in the UK are having to scale up a prototype to a full commercial scale in one move, primarily due to a lack of capital - not surprisingly this can prove problematic!

7. What are the main reasons tidal energy solutions need to be implemented and expanded in the future?

In essence it’s due to the fact that it’s a clean option based on a sustainable resource which is widely available. I think we are all in agreement that we simply can’t continue to advance our economies in the way we have in the past and now need to make sustainable decisions based on evaluating the optimum use of natural resources.

Tidal technology is presently moving ahead of wave development as it is understood more easily as the physics are simpler resulting in simpler sums when you are calculating the energy that will be derived. I think the most important fact to keep in mind is that tidal energy is more predictable than wind and look at how that is regarded. Tidal energy can also be used in desalination, hence providing clean energy and a clean water resource for developing nations - double the benefits!

8. Who are some of the major players in the tidal energy industry today and what do they do?

Everyone is aware of the likes of MCT, Lunar, Open Hydro, Verdant etc but the summit made me aware of emerging companies which have an innovative take on tidal devices-Tidal Sail and Pulse Generation come to mind. It will be interesting to see what emerges this year.

At present the UK is seen as being at the forefront of this emerging market but with more and more countries showing an interest the UK might not be able to hang on to its lead. Nova Scotia has voiced its intensions to become World leaders in tidal research and development, everything is to play for and really no one can sit back and be confident in their future successes based on their previous track record.
A design needs to be linked to site specific requirements, export markets created and funding secured. Ensure your business case is as water tight as your physics!!!!

9. Are there any tidal energy power plants in operation

Off the top of my head the ones which come to mind are Marine Current Turbine who where the first to install a turbine off the coast of North Devon back in 2003, Open Hydro have begun testing in EMEC in the Orkneys, Ponte Di Archimede have a device based in Straits of Messina and has clocked up 6 years of testing experience and Hammerfest Strom in Norway. By no means is this list exhausted!
10. Are there major tidal projects underway at this time?  Can you discuss a few of them here?

MCT are soon to install Seagen at Strangford Lough, this design has undergone several tests and is now incredibly close to being commercial, Tidal Generation has plans for a 500 kw device for the Orkneys later this year and many more devices will soon be hitting the waters, of course latest developments are discussed in Tidal Today newsletters just simply sign up! Studies have concluded that tidal energy has the potential to generate electricity at 7 pence kwhr, whilst this is not the cheapest form of electricity it is competitive. A primary role of testing is really to establish how devices can move closer towards this value, only then will tidal energy really be ready to become apart of our future energy mix


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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