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Market News

 February 21, 2012
Atlantis in talks to create joint tidal and wind farm

 A leading tidal power developer has revealed it is in talks to create a new marine energy farm capable of producing both wind and tidal power, in a bid to cut costs and boost the reliability of intermittent green energy technologies.

Tim Cornelius, chief executive of Atlantis Resources, told BusinessGreen that the company is already in talks with suppliers of transmission components, such as cabling and converters, to examine the feasibility of building a combined project from scratch or adding its own tidal turbines onto an existing offshore wind farm.

"It's a question we spend a long time thinking about," he said, adding that the approach could significantly increase the reliability and predictability of offshore renewable energy projects.

Offshore wind farms do experience more reliable winds than onshore wind farms, but they are still subject to intermittency that can create challenges for grid operators.

Atlantis hopes that by co-locating wind turbines with tidal turbines projects can both reduce impacts on the marine environment and produce energy on a more predictable basis, while also potentially reducing construction, maintenance and operating costs.

A committee of MPs on Sunday called on the government to boost its support for wave and tidal power to ensure the UK retains its global leading position in the market, and bring down the currently high cost of technology. The first tidal farms are expected to produce electricity at around 29-33p/kWh, but the MPs said developers should target 14p/kWh by 2020 if they want to produce technologies that are commercially viable in the long-term.

Cornelius said that allowing different offshore generators to share transmission assets could provide an important route to cutting costs as it would enable the cables to operate closer to full capacity more of the time.

"The trick of building anything offshore is being able to have as much generation as you possibly can on a foundation," he explained. "But if you can match resource, so that they're geographically close -- such as an offshore wind farm and a tidal farm -- then the ability to share common export cables can deliver incredible economies of scale."

He maintained that delivering such a project would be "some way away" because the industry is still in its infancy, but he suggested many developers would be exploring options to combine technologies before 2020. Most notably, the Energy Technologies Institute is already assessing whether it could use the Wave Hub testing facility to demonstrate a prototype floating wind turbine.

Atlantis Resources is currently in the process of moving its 1MW AR1000 tidal turbine from Orkney to the National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth for further testing, and is slated to supply the majority of the 400 turbines planned for the MeyGen project, which will potentially provide 400MW of capacity from one of the fastest-flowing areas of the Pentland Firth by the end of the decade.

Cornelius said Atlantis was already talking to suppliers about the converters, transporters, and other transmission components that could be used to support a joint wind and tidal site.

However, he refused to be drawn on the likely location for such a project. "Absolutely there are places in the UK, there are places in North America and there are places in South East Asia," he said. "There literally are places in all of those locations, some of which are better than others.

"The difficult thing is sorting out the technology. Wind is already well advanced. Once tidal gets to a point where it's mature and cranking out hours into the grid in different parts of the world, then the conversation is there to be had with the guys who have developed very mature technologies in the form of cabling and converters.

"That's a conversation we all want to have before 2020 because it opens up new markets and makes things more attractive to investors."