Lunar lands largest tidal power deal

A tidal turbine of the type to be deployed off the South Korean coast.

Further evidence that UK renewable energy developers are far ahead of their government comes with news that tidal power company Lunar Energy has signed an agreement with Korean Midland Power Co which will create a giant 300 turbine field in the Wando Hoenggan Water Way off the South Korean coast.

The plant will power 200,000 Korean homes by December 2015. Fabrication and installation of the tidal turbines will be carried out by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, while Rotech Engineering provides design optimisation and specialist components.It is intended that full resource research and feasibility be completed by July 2008 with the installation of a 1MW pilot plant by March 2009. Each 1MW unit has a turbine diameter of 11.5m and a fully ballasted weight in excess of 2,500 tons. Rotech Tidal Turbines can be easily grouped to suit tidal streams in locations worldwide.

Lunar Energy chairman William Law said, 'I am delighted to announce this joint venture which will combine the subsea engineering skills of Rotech with the known fabrication expertise of Hyundai. It is also a testament to the forward thinking management of Korean Midland Power that they have seen the potential in this UK technology both for their company and Korea itself. Lunar’s leading role in this project gives a British company massive potential to exploit the roll out of tidal energy worldwide.

According to Lunar Energy, tidal power could be making a significant contribution to the UK’s energy needs within the next 7 to 8 years if the government invested in the national grid. For a fraction of the cost of other renewable energy projects, an upgrade to the East Coast Network could see tidal resources off the coast of Scotland tapped and the electricity supplied to energy hungry towns the length of Britain.

The coast of Britain is eminently well suited to tidal projects. The Black & Veatch report for the Carbon Trust, the UK Tidal Energy Resource Assessment July 2005, concluded that the UK was lucky enough to possess 50% of European tidal stream resources and between 10% to 15% of the total world resource. The government’s own estimates put the percentage of UK power needs that could be supplied by tidal power at 10%. Some tidal power experts put it as high as 20%. The best tidal streams are off the coast of Scotland, most notably the Pentland Firth.

Econnect Consulting carried out a study for The Crown Estate, the East Coast Transmission Network: Technical Feasibility Study, last year which looked into connection to the National Grid and in particular the technical and economic feasibility of using the east coast seabed for an offshore transmission network.

The design allows for the retrieval of energy into the grid right around the north and north west of Scotland, including both the Shetland and Western isles. The cost of £4.8bn is one third of the £15bn earmarked for the proposed Severn barrage.

Rob Hastings, director of the Marine Estate at the Crown Estate said,
'An undersea cable down the east coast is technologically and economically viable, and we have now commissioned more detailed studies. The prospect of taking green energy right down the east coast to heavily populated areas in the south, and potentially to the rest of Europe, is incredibly exciting.'

Bill Law would relish the opportunity to commission projects on the same scale as that agreed in Korea, but he is stymied by British government myopia.

'This deal with the Koreans is fantastic news for Lunar, he said ' but the big question is why we are not currently doing similar projects in the UK. The answer is that we need buy-in from the government, but ministers are not focussing on what works and is most cost effective. The reality is that tidal stream projects are quicker and easier to get going, are more reliable once they are up and running and have fewer environmental concerns.'

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