53 MW in tidal stream projects get the go-ahead in the UK

12 September 2023

Seven tidal stream projects have secured contracts in the UK government’s latest renewables auction, AR5. 53 MW of tidal stream capacity has been contracted in all, building on the 40 MW secured in the previous round.

These include SAE Renewables, securing 21.94 MW of capacity for its project in Pentland Firth, MeyGen, Scotland, Orbital Marine Power which was awarded 7.2 MW, and Magallanes which was awarded 1.5 MW. The latter sites are both based at EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney.

Four projects in Wales totalling over 22 MW of tidal stream capacity have been contracted. The four are Hydrowing (10 MW), Verdant (4.9 MW), MOR Energy (4.5 MW) and Magallanes (3 MW). All four projects will be installed at the Morlais Tidal Demonstration Zone at the island of Anglesey. Run by social enterprise Menter Mon, the consented 35 sq km area of seabed allows for the installation and commercial demonstration of multiple tidal energy devices.

Tidal stream technology is the new kid on the block but it is predictable and consistent. It has already delivered over 70 GWh of electricity to the grid.

The projects are agreed at a strike price of £198 per MWh, a figure high enough to give some encouragement to developers.

Tom Hill, Marine Energy Wales programme manager, welcomed the contract awards. “Today’s announcement brings with it renewed optimism for the future of tidal energy in Wales. It is vital now that UK government continues to support tidal stream technologies and the renewable energy sector, ensuring that Wales and the rest of the UK is not left behind.

“Marine renewable energy has a critical role to play if we are to succeed in decarbonising the energy sector and achieve Net Zero by 2050, and Wales has the potential to take centre stage.”

Dissenting voices

The results of the UK government’s latest renewables auction has raised several voices in criticism.

From Cornwall Insight: “The government has today unveiled the results of its fifth Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction (AR5), securing 3.7GW of renewable capacity. This is a marked reduction from last year’s secured capacity of 11GW, with government renewables targets potentially at risk.

The auction, which saw developers able to bid on a range of renewable technologies including solar PV, onshore and offshore wind and hydropower, failed to procure any offshore wind capacity. The low Administrative Strike Price (ASP)1 of £44 per MWh (in 2012 prices) offered under AR5 was deemed by many to be insufficient to meet the development costs.”

From Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Doug Parr: “Failed renewables auction is the ‘biggest disaster for clean energy in almost a decade’ putting decarbonisation target in jeopardy”. Commenting on the results of the auction, which received no interest from developers of offshore wind farms, Doug Parr, said: “This monumental failure is the biggest disaster for clean energy in almost a decade. Thanks to cost pressures and inept government policy, this auction round has completely flopped – denying bill payers access to cheap, clean energy and putting the UK’s legally binding target of decarbonising power by 2035 in greater jeopardy. It leaves the UK more dependent on expensive, imported fossil gas.

“Offshore wind is one of the cheapest and cleanest forms of power there is, but in an effort to save consumers pennies on their energy bills, the government is costing them pounds. We need urgent reforms to the way these contracts are awarded and smart changes in government policy to unlock private investment and remove planning bottlenecks.”

From the Offshore Wind Industry Council: the Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council, Richard Sandford, said: “It is clear that this year’s auction represents a missed opportunity to strengthen Britain’s energy security and provide low-cost power for consumers. If all the offshore wind projects eligible to bid into this auction had done so, we could have powered the equivalent of more than five million British homes a year. So, lessons must be learned to ensure that the parameters of the auction are set correctly in the future. The landmark report published earlier this year by the government’s offshore wind champion Tim Pick shows how the industry can grow successfully in the years ahead.”

The Celtic Sea Developer Alliance, managed by Marine Energy Wales, also expressed its disappointment that no contracts have been awarded to floating offshore wind projects in AR5, including Erebus, Wales’ planned floating offshore wind farm, considered to be a pioneering project, which received the necessary environmental consents earlier this year.

“The Celtic Sea has the potential to deliver 24GW of renewable energy through floating offshore wind turbines, and Wales has the potential to be a global player, but without support and backing from UK government, the CSDA believes we are at risk of falling behind.

“These projects are vital to meet the UK Government’s 5GW floating offshore wind target by 2030, and today is a huge blow to these ambitions and efforts to reach Net Zero.”

From RenewableUK’s Wales: RenewableUK Cymru’s director Jess Hooper, who said: “As Wales’ first floating offshore wind project, Erebus is entirely dependent on this form of revenue support to succeed, and the success of Erebus is critically important not only to Wales and the wider South West region, but also for the UK government’s own floating offshore wind targets.  This result will now delay investment decisions for developers, supply chain companies, ports and infrastructure, all with knock-on effects.”

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