In many ways marine and hydrokinetic power systems offer one of the most promising areas for renewable energy development. Marine and hydrokinetic resources – including ocean waves, tidal streams, river flows, ocean currents, and ocean thermal differences – are abundant, the technology is improving rapidly, and countries that have strong marine resources, such as the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, South Korea, Spain, and Portugal, have committed to supporting the industry.
Marine energy, however, still faces significant technology, policy, and financing challenges. According to a recent report from Pike Research, marine energy will require the participation of large corporations that have the experience in project development, the tax appetite, and the sophistication to pull off large-scale projects in the 100 MW to 500 megawatt (MW) range.
“Examples of big companies, from major utilities to defense contractors, moving into marine and hydrokinetic energy are not hard to find,” says research analyst Dexter Gauntlett. “But interest among these larger companies will continue only to the extent that commercially viable technologies exist, can be smoothly permitted, and are cost-effective. Perhaps more importantly, long-term price supports must also exist, as they do in the United Kingdom.”
In Europe, E.ON and ScottishPower Renewables have jumped into the marine energy sector by partnering with early innovator companies. Morgan Stanley is the majority shareholder of Atlantis Resources Corporation, while Swedish power giant Vattenfall is investing in marine and transmission projects in the North Sea. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has partnered on projects with a number of wave and tidal power companies, and ABB, Bosch & Rexroth, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are all testing the waters as well. Only a small handful of companies, though, can claim they have products on the verge of commercialization.
Pike Research’s report, “Hydrokinetic and Ocean Energy”, analyzes the global market opportunities to harness marine and hydrokinetic technologies for power generation. The study examines multiple MHK technologies including ocean wave, tidal stream, river hydrokinetic, ocean current, and ocean thermal technologies, assessing the relative advantages and disadvantages of the various options. Profiles and SWOT analysis are provided for key industry players and detailed market forecasts for installed capacity and revenue extend through 2017.
Subsea World News Staff , June 25, 2012; Image: Pike Research