Offshore Tidal Power In England

Pulse Tidal's PS100 offshore tidal power generator
Pulse Tidal’s PS100 offshore installation draws power from tidal streams.
Pulse Tidal

The first fully predictable electricity generated by tidal power in shallow waters is now coming ashore on the banks of the Humber Estuary on England’s northeast coast. The pilot system, created by Sheffield-based Pulse Tidal, shows that predictable energy can be produced close to shore where it is needed, greatly reducing the investment required to install, connect, and maintain devices compared to those in remote locations.

Pulse Tidal is confident its approach will surpass the wind turbine as the most economic source of offshore power. In addition, the fully submerged design dramatically reduces the environmental impact.

The 100kW Humber prototype system, in which tidal streams move horizontal blades up and down to drive a generator, has shown it can harness enough energy to power 70 homes. Pulse is now engineering a much larger device that will deliver the lowest lifetime cost of power from tidal streams thanks to its reliability and its straightforward installation and maintenance.

Chief Executive of Pulse Title, Bob Smith, commented, “The last few months of operation have shown that the Pulse concept offers an economic way to recover predictable, renewable energy from the tides. According to the latest industry figures, offshore wind energy costs between 8p and 11p per kWh to produce. We believe that the Pulse system will be more cost effective than offshore wind after only 1-200MW has been installed. In fact, offshore wind power costs have been rising. The Government has responded to this by increasing the incentives for offshore wind projects from 1.5 ROCs (Renewables Obligation Certificates) to 2 ROCs. Unless it is matched by an increase in incentives for Tidal Power, this short-term measure will divert investment from technologies like ours which can ultimately be more cost effective.”

“Pulse’s first device has opened up shallow water resources close to shore for direct connection to end users. Our next device will be much larger, providing power for around 1,000 homes. It will be able to operate in a wide range of water depths, but we will focus initially on the shallow sites since they offer lower cost and are less complex. We are currently negotiating the location for our first full-scale project, which will begin operation in 2012.”

The Carbon Trust estimates the worldwide tidal energy market will generate over 120TWh of electricity per year, equivalent to at least 6 billion pounds worth of power annually.

Pulse Tidal’s device was commissioned in May in the Humber estuary’s shallow waters off Immingham Dock.

It is now feeding electricity into Millennium Inorganic Chemicals on the south bank of the Humber, making MIC the first UK company to take a direct feed from tidal power.

Commissioning of the PS100 is the culmination of 10 years development by inventor Marc Paish, Pulse’s chief technology officer. Paish explained, “The teamwork between IT Power, Humber Work Boats, Corus and Senergy Econnect has enabled us to prove that low cost, reliable, clean energy can be produced from waters close to shore.”

Howard Nimmo, commercial director, adds: “We have been supported by a number of investors, including IT Power, Marubeni Europe plc, LIFE-IC and The Viking Fund, as well as by Government grants. Generating power in the Humber is a significant milestone for the company that has enabled us to raise additional finance from our current partners.”

Jamie O’Nians of IT Power, who is project director of the PS100, agrees. “This is a defining moment for Pulse Tidal. The success of this project differentiates it from other technologies and places it in the unique and exciting position of generating predictable power from a well understood resource close to the end user. The benefits of shallow water tidal resources are clear and there is now the technology to exploit it.”

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