Brendan Barry writes that ocean energy can be part of the renewable energy mix at increasing scale from the middle of the next decade given the right energy policies and investment decisions
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Established in 1927, ESB has grown from its early success in harnessing the renewable energy resource of the Shannon at Ardnacrusha to become the highly successful international business that it is today – with net assets of over € 12 billion and with major investments across Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK and Spain. ESB International has been providing consulting services for over 35 years and has worked in over 100 countries. ESB is currently building a highly efficient 880 MW CCGT power plant at Carrington in the UK, which is expected on line in 2015.

The need to take action on climate change, and the consequent EU policy to substantially decarbonise energy by 2050, means that a transformation of the energy industry will be required. Changes will be required in how electricity is generated, transmitted and how it is used. Technology and choice will give the consumer an ever-increasing role in meeting climate-change objectives.

Enhanced electricity market integration with Europe from 2016 will ultimately lead to larger and more efficient markets, with trading of renewable energy across boundaries a possibility. ESB is preparing for this transformation and many exciting new developments are under way. Ocean energy is one key part.

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Smart metering will enable dynamic pricing and control of household electricity consumption, enabling the consumer to reduce consumption and costs. ESB’s national roll-out of intelligent electronic meters is currently at project design stage, with deployment expected to be complete by 2019.

The consumer will also be able to play their part by switching to electric vehicles. The ESB E-Cars programme is now at an advanced stage, where over 1,200 charge points are now installed nationwide – including over 30 ‘fast chargers’ installed on the national road network. Costs of electric vehicles are reducing and fuel costs are as little as 10 % of equivalent petrol/diesel engines.

ESB’s retail business, Electric Ireland, has a long tradition in providing energy services for larger users, but is now working with all of its customers to provide new services and products in energy efficiency.

INVESTMENT

ESB continues to invest in its networks, with €395 million invested in 2012 and over €6 billion invested over the past 10 years. This is a level of investment that ensures Ireland has a safe, reliable and good quality electricity supply and paves the way for future investment to ensure that the grid will be able to connect up to 5000 MW of wind by 2020 compared to over 2000 MW today.

With ambitious targets of getting from 560 MW of renewable generation today to over 1800 MW of renewable electricity generation it its portfolio by 2025, ESB is investing in onshore wind farms in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

But Ireland has another abundant renewable energy resource in its vast ocean energy resources and ESB is actively working to ensure that this opportunity is grasped. Ocean energy development is actively supported at EU level and is also a pillar in Ireland’s renewable energy strategy.

Ireland and UK combined have over half of the European ocean energy resource, with Ireland having better wave energy intensity than Scotland. The potential resource in Ireland is significant. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) estimates a ‘practical, accessible’ resource of ~7000 MW installed capacity for wave and ~500MW for tidal energy. The current maximum demand on the Irish system today is circa 5000 MW, so this is a very significant scale.

ESB has been involved in ocean energy for many years and is supporting this emerging industry in a variety of ways:

·    By developing an early-stage demonstration project, ESB WestWave;

·    By providing engineering services to the industry through ESB International;

·    Through the development of standards and ensuring utility requirements are incorporated into early development work; and

·    By supporting marine renewable R&D initiatives with leading Irish universities.

TECHNOLOGY PROGRESSION

Wave and tidal energy devices have matured considerably in the past decade. There are now multiple examples of prototype devices, which are successfully demonstrating sustained electricity export to the grid.

SeaGen tidal device, Strangford Narrows

Wave energy developer’s Pelamis and Aquamarine Power are at the advanced stage of testing their prototypes at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland. These devices have successfully exported power to the grid. Other wave-energy developers are in the process of developing large scale prototypes.

Marine Current Turbines’ (MCT’s) SeaGen tidal device in Strangford Narrows, Northern Ireland (see right) is a successful prototype, having exported over 6GWhrs since 2008. In addition to investing in MCT, ESB provided engineering support to MCT during project development and provided an off-take agreement for the power generated.

Elsewhere, tidal developers such as Irish company OpenHydro, Alstom Tidal Generation Ltd, Andritz-Hammerfest and ScotRenewables have each generated significant amounts of energy, also at EMEC. The tidal industry has seen acquisitions by a number of large OEMs such as Siemens (MCT), Alstom (Tidal Generation Ltd), Voith Hydro and Andritz Hydro (Hammerfest).

At the Renewable UK Wave and Tidal conference (l-r): Brendan Barry, manager, ESB Ocean Energy; Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, Scottish Parliament; Dr John Fitzgerald, ESB Ocean Energy technology manager; and Brian Montayne, business development manager, ESB International

Activity in the ocean energy industry is high, with significant interest now across all stakeholder groups from policy makers, utilities, technology developers, third-party suppliers and research institutions.

This activity was evident at a recent ESB-sponsored event, the International Conference on Ocean Energy in Dublin, where over 750 international experts gathered. Similarly, over 500 delegates and 50 exhibitors including ESB attended the Renewable UK Wave and Tidal Conference in London in February (see right).

These activity levels and positive developments in wave and tidal prototypes are a welcome signal to the market which has established a multitude of project opportunities in the UK and Ireland. At present, there are over 2GW of ocean energy projects at various stages of development across the UK and Ireland.

The pipeline of projects illustrates just how serious the industry has become.

Once prototype testing has successfully been completed, the commercialisation of the technology will require much investment in small scale, pre-commercial projects and the development of a bridging market before it can become competitive with other renewables of scale, such as offshore wind.

ESB’s WestWave project is a small scale, pre-commercial project and could be the first wave farm in Europe.

WESTWAVE PROJECT

The WestWave project will deploy and operate a small array of wave-energy converters capable of generating 5MW of clean electricity off the west coast of Ireland. The WestWave project is led by ESB with the collaboration of wave energy technology partners and up to 25 associate partners.

The WestWave project is being delivered according to ESB’s Project Delivery Model, which combines ESB’s vast project delivery experience with international best practice. The project has made good progress with initial surveying and environmental scoping complete, resource monitoring ongoing, grid connection secured and supply chain assessment published.

ESB has also set out and published a set of Technology Readiness Levels, which outline the various stages of ocean technology progression against an objective scale. This scale is used to outline the readiness requirement for Westwave project. Further information can be found at www.westwave.ie.

PATH TO COMMERCIALISATION

Ultimately, ocean-energy projects must compete with other forms of renewable energy, with offshore wind considered a suitable benchmark. It should be possible to achieve this once the industry successfully progresses beyond pilot and prototype demonstration stages.

The proposed test site under development by SEAI at Belmullet (AMETS) and EMEC at Scotland will facilitate prototype testing. Once protoypes are successfully proven, three additional phases are envisaged by ESB follows:

·    Phase 1: Pre-Commercial Arrays (5-10MW)

Following successful single prototype device verification, phase 1 projects establish the potential reliability and operational costs of ocean energy arrays. This phase will require capital grant and tariff support. ESB’s WestWave project is an example of a Phase 1 project.

·    Phase 2: Small Commercial Arrays (25MW+)

This phase would involve the first projects of significant scale. It is likely that tariff support will continue to be required and this intermediate stage prepares the way for larger scale commercial deployments.

·    Phase 3: Large Commercial Arrays (50MW+)

This phase would involve large deployment of technologies at significant scale. A lower and sustainable tariff will be adequate at this phase, similar to the case of offshore wind. The nature of this tariff will depend on overall energy policy and value of avoided carbon emissions in market prices.

CONCLUSION AND PERSPECTIVE

The energy industry is on the cusp of significant change which will require a transformation in how we generate, transmit and consume energy.

ESB is playing a leading role in this transformation through investing in renewables, sustainable networks to support renewable penetration, electrification of transport and empowering customers to play their part through smart metering and energy efficiency products and services.

Ocean energy can also play a significant part in this transformation and successful early stage pre-commercial projects such as the ESB Westwave project will be the key to unlocking the potential.

Activity in ocean energy is high and progress though slow is steady. Several technologies are now proving the sustainable operation of full-scale devices and several should be suitable for deployment in demonstration arrays over the coming years.

As an island nation, ocean energy offers Ireland and its neighbours the potential for an additional secure and clean electricity supply. Ocean energy can be part of the renewable energy mix at increasing scale from the middle of the next decade, given the right energy policies, market conditions and investment decisions.

Brendan Barry graduated in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Limerick in 1990 and has worked in a variety of management roles across ESB since then. Brendan has specific responsibility for development of ocean energy in the company.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Ardnacrusha-1024x503.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Ardnacrusha-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanElecESB,European Union,renewables,tidal,wave
Established in 1927, ESB has grown from its early success in harnessing the renewable energy resource of the Shannon at Ardnacrusha to become the highly successful international business that it is today – with net assets of over € 12 billion and with major investments across Ireland, Northern Ireland,...