April 29 - Industry observers have said that the potential of marine power as a future source of renewable energy is being undermined by a shortage of vessels that are able to deploy marine devices.
Furthermore, companies involved in this area of renewable energy are competing with oil-and-gas businesses and offshore-wind developers for access to those ships.
There are also enormous technical issues to overcome in the installation and operational processes of projects designed to convert the motion of tides and waves into electricity. Developing equipment that can withstand the punishing marine environment is a major challenge, as is reducing the cost of generation so that marine power can better compete with more established sources of energy.
Financial difficulties are a further obstacle, as the credit crisis has made project financing harder and more expensive to secure. The development of the world's first commercial-sized wave farm, the Aguçadoura project off the coast of Portugal, has been temporarily suspended after its majority owner, Australia's Babcock & Brown Ltd. went into administration in March. HLPFI understands that the project, is now effectively on hold until Babcock & Brown can find a buyer for its 77 take.
Despite these problems, many believe that tidal and wave power is the preferred method of achieving renewable energy targets. Companies with heavy lift capabilities have noted the opportunities and the fact that many of Europe's top utilities, including Spain's Iberdrola SA, Germany's RWE AG and E.ON AG and the U.K.'s Scottish & Southern Energy PLC, are actively investing in marine energy technologies which will all have heavy lift shipping requirements.
In September, the UK's Crown Estate, which owns and manages the seabed around the UK's coast, will begin granting options for lease over areas of seabed in the Pentland Firth for marine-energy projects.
The Pentland Firth and surrounding area, now called the Saudi Arabia of tidal power, separates North Scotland from the islands of Orkney and contains six of the top 10 sites in the UK for tidal power development. This could have great potential for companies that offer heavy lift shipping capabilities.
These and other issues will be analysed in detail in the review of the renewable energy industry which will appear in the July/August edition of HLPFI. If you would be interested in promoting your company's capabilities in that feature, either through editorial or advertising, please contact us now.