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Project reduces cost of tidal energy

Published: 23 May 2019 - Carly Wills

Just 18 months after its launch, the £17m flagship EU tidal energy project, Enabling Future Arrays in Tidal (EnFAIT), has reduced the cost of tidal energy by 15 per cent, and grown its supply chain from four to 14 EU countries.

EnFAIT is an academic-industry collaboration between nine European partners focused on demonstrating the economic viability of tidal power. The project is also paving the way for a new industrial marine manufacturing sector with a supply chain based across Europe. 

Consortium lead, Edinburgh-based Nova Innovation Ltd, reports that its Shetland tidal array - the world’s first offshore tidal array - has reduced operational costs by 15 per cent since the start of the project. By 2022, when the project closes, it forecasts a cost reduction exceeding 40 per cent, which could spark an explosion of interest in tidal power from global investors. 

Further cost reductions will be driven by improvements in the design of Nova Innovation’s underwater turbines, learnings from the optimal arrangement of the turbines, and improved measurement and forecasting of tidal flows at prospective sites. Advances in forecasting, led by engineers from the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, have contributed to the faster than expected cost reductions so far.

The array itself is now supplied with 100 per cent EU-manufactured content, bringing the number of EU supplier countries up from four to 14. These suppliers are not limited to countries along the Atlantic shoreline (where Europe’s tidal resource predominantly lies) but are drawn from across the European land mass.

The project is also bringing local economic benefits, with the array already powering homes and businesses across Shetland. There are more than 60 Scottish companies in the project supply chain, clearly demonstrating the economic case for local tidal energy production. 

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