The wave and tidal power sector is seeing increasing numbers of small-scale projects around the world, but has yet to develop into a major industry. However, many expect that will happen soon.
Heavy lift shipping operators, forwarders and ports continue to hope that tidal and wave energy could present significant future business opportunities.
Right now, though, most such installations are still only pilot or test projects and while the number is increasing, particularly in Europe and Asia, the volume of related logistics work remains small.
“The technology has potential but while a range of possible solutions have been put forward and a lot of test projects are currently going on, it has yet to see significant adoption on a commercial basis,” confirmed Christian Hoffmann, head of marketing and corporate communications for heavy lift shipping operator SAL Heavy Lift.
“SAL handled one test installation of a tidal turbine off the Orkney Islands in Scotland a few years ago, but until the industry starts to see more large-scale adoption of tidal and wave power technology, it is hard to assess what potential future business there might be for heavy lift shipping providers.”
Thore Schreiber, head of business development and sales for logistics solutions provider Rhenus Offshore Logistics, voiced a similar assessment.
“We have developed theoretical studies and analysed logistics supply chains required for tidal and wave power but to date we have not executed any projects,” he commented.
“However, we do see a future involvement in that sector offering logistics and service solutions during both the construction and operation of such installations,” he commented.
Asked about wider global prospects for ocean tidal and wave power project business over the next couple of decades, Schreiber suggested that when it comes to logistics supply chains, there are many parallels with offshore wind.
“The challenge in the near future, though, will be the current small scale of tidal and wave projects. It will take many more years for them to reach a scale comparable with those in the offshore wind sector. Small-scale developments do not allow cost-effective logistical solutions,” he added.
The natural resource and commercial opportunity China represents for the tidal stream power industry cannot be overstated. – Tim Cornelius, Simec Atlantis Energy
Nevertheless, the ocean tidal and wave power industry is growing. A report published earlier this year by Ocean Energy Systems (OES), an inter-governmental organisation established to advance the development of such energies, said global wave and tidal stream energy production has risen tenfold over the last decade, from less than 5 GWh (gigawatt hours) in 2009 to almost 50 GWh in 2019.
“Numerous other wave and tidal stream devices have been deployed in open-sea waters for testing, while further ‘push and pull’ mechanisms are stimulating the ocean energy sector in various regions of the world,” commented OES.
In Europe, one of those regions is Brittany in north-west France. “There a few companies testing tidal machines around Brest, off the island of Ushant, and off the northern coast of Brittany near the island of Bréhat,” commented Lucile Héritier, director of ports for the Brittany region. “We hope that one day tidal energy will become effective and we can have a marine industry in Brittany servicing that industry.”
The increasingly global spread of tidal power is highlighted in the activities of Simec Atlantis Energy (Atlantis), a UKheadquartered developer of sustainable energy generation projects, including the world’s largest operational tidal stream array, the MeyGen installation in northern Scotland.
Over the past two years, the company has supported developments in several other countries, including France, Indonesia and Japan. It is also helping to open up tidal stream power in China, including working with The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and China Three Gorges to develop the latter’s first SG500 KW tidal stream turbine, which was installed between two islands in the Zhoushan archipelago earlier this year.
“The natural resource and commercial opportunity China represents for the tidal stream power industry cannot be overstated,” commented Tim Cornelius, ceo of Atlantis. “This opening up of a vast international market will have profound implications for supply chain and cost reduction developments.”
The ocean energy sector is, however, expected to present new operational challenges for logistics providers as it expands and the turbine components involved get larger and heavier.
Some of the potential issues were outlined by Brian Sørensen, head of business development port service and wind logistics, Esbjerg, for Blue Water Shipping, which over the last few years has been involved with two tidal energy trial projects in France.
“The tidal turbines currently being deployed for test/pilot projects weigh maybe 500 tonnes, but as the industry develops they are going to get bigger and that is going to present challenges when it comes to installation and lifting,” he said.
“When that happens, there will be fewer companies that can handle the movement and installation of the turbines.