The Tides Turn in Renewable Energy
Thanks to recent advancements in technology, tidal power is starting to gain recognition as one of the future's most promising forms of renewable energy. With the bulk of the world's population living on ocean seaboards or close to flowing water, the World Energy Council estimates that harnessing the kinetic energy of oceans and rivers could supply the world's electricity demand twice over.
Unlike wind and solar, tides are predictable, dependable and powerful. The gravitational pull of the sun and moon regulating the ocean's currents works like clockwork. According to PikeResearch, water is 800 times more energy dense than wind and marine technologies have two to three times the capacity factor of solar. Though all forms of renewable energy have a place in the global energy mix, those that are dependent on weather conditions won't be enough to compete with more reliable fossil-fueled sources of power.
“The whole global economy is based around reliable, continuous power,” says Elemental Energy Technologies' (EET) Chairman, Mr Kim Lyle. “Energy sectors that are dependent on the weather are very unpredictable and difficult to integrate into the electrical systems being used around the world today.”
EET recently won the UGL Award for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering and Excellence at Australia's annual Engineering Excellence Awards for its revolutionary underwater turbine design, the SeaUrchin ™. A breakthrough in tidal/ocean current energy, the SeaUrchin brings new hope to a market with the potential to compete directly with base load coal and nuclear power generation. Designed to exploit the underlying principle and raw power of an ocean whirlpool, the technology harnesses up to four times more power and is up to 70 percent more efficient than conventionally used propeller models on the market—not to mention, about half the price.
The real breakthrough, however, is in the design. After years of research and development with some of the top experts in the field from around the world, EET came up with a turbine that is scalable, easy to transport and commercially viable. The composite materials used to construct the device, manufactured from RPC Technologies, have a life of 100 years in salt water and hold a competitive advantage to other commonly used metals.
“Composites, in our view, are a superior material to work with when talking about deploying things in the ocean,” says Lyle. “We used a material that can be molded to any shape, which gave us much more flexibility in developing an exotic design.”
Growth in offshore wind has already demonstrated that despite the unforgiving marine environment, energy can be harvested offshore. Yet, the same sized turbines used to capture wind can generate up to eight times more power from ocean currents, tides and rivers. SeaUrchins are also more compact than wind turbines, making them easier to transport and set up—minus the visual and noise pollution that comes with hillside wind farms.
Scalable from 300W to 1MW in size, the device is deployable in the largest range of ocean and river locations around the world. One large SeaUrchin turbine can produce enough energy to power 1,000 homes.
“That's another one of our advantages,” says Lyle. “We can put multiple small units to aggregate to a large number, giving us much more flexibility to deploy the technology to a lot more locations.”
Over the next couple years, Tenax Energy will test the technology in a university-monitored pilot plant, feeding electricity into Australia's Darwin, Northern Territory grid. If all goes well, the device will likely be employed for a proposed 450MW project. The commercialization from there is limitless.
One thing is clear: tidal power is one of the largest and reliable forms of renewable energy suitable for integration into base load grid systems, yet one of the most untapped. Technology is changing that, giving way to a whole new industry we're about to see become a huge part of the renewable market in the very near future.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere