Jul 11, 2012

The Tides Turn in Renewable Energy

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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.

Read more in July's issue of Energy Digital: The Future of Transportation

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.


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May 13, 2021

All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only UK regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil

Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.

Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.

According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.

Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.

“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."

He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."

North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).

The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.

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