Orkney-based European marine energy test centre ‘gutted’ as French tidal power developer pulls plug

Open Hydro tidal power turbine at EMEC tidal test site in Orkney Photograph Mike Brookes-Roper
An Open Hydro tidal power turbine at the EMEC tidal test site in Orkney;  Photograph Mike Brookes-Roper

French renewable energy company Naval Energies has decided to stop investing in tidal turbines and concentrate its efforts on floating offshore wind and thermal energy conversion.

The company said that the market for tidal turbine energy was diminishing but in contrast, the market for floating offshore wind is developing quickly.

Chief executive Laurent Schneider-Maunoury blamed both limited deployment opportunities in France and the lack of any route to market through price support contracts (aka subsidies) in the UK.

“It is with regret, but also responsibility, that we are taking the decision to stop developing tidal-turbine energy,” he said.

This decision has also led to the liquidation of the company’s Dublin-based subsidiary OpenHydro.

Unconfirmed industry speculation has suggested that the SIMEC Atlantis Energy – which is developing the world’s largest tidal-power subsea electricity generating station off Caithness in the Pentland Firth – may be interested in acquiring assets from Open Hydro.

Meanwhile, Neil Kermode, Managing Director of the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre, said the Naval Energies pull-out is a hard blow to the centre. He said:

“EMEC is gutted to hear that Naval Energies have made the difficult decision to liquidate OpenHydro.

“Open Hydro was EMEC’s first tidal energy client, and are our longest standing client, having been operating at the Fall of Warness test site since 2007. In 2008, they became the first company in the UK to feed tidal power into the national grid – a remarkable achievement.

“Their innovative open-centred turbine has been one of the most recognisable images in tidal energy.

“Having been a loyal customer for over a decade we know many of the staff personally, having seen the company grow from a handful to over 100 people.

“The Open Hydro team have worked tirelessly to promote the benefits and opportunities that the tidal energy industry offers. The important impact that they have made in these still early days of developing this new carbon free form of energy will be a lasting legacy which will not be forgotten.

“But working at the vanguard of technology development has its risks. At EMEC we’re all too aware that some of the pioneering technologies testing at our sites will fail to manage the difficult transition from research to commercial success.

“This point in development is known in innovation circles as ‘the valley of death’ as costs increase the closer they get to commercialisation. It looks as though Open Hydro are another corporate fataility in that valley. But tidal energy’s day is yet to come.”

2 Aug 2018

Pixie Energy

Pixie logo Pixie Energy is an incubator and a facilitator of strategic research and project work, focusing on energy regulation, policy and markets at the local and national level. Find out more about Pixie Energy here.

Local Energy Matters: Scotland

Local Energy Matters: Scotland is a free-to-download brochure with a focus on energy tariffs in the two Scottish electricity distribution regions, as well news on local energy and low-carbon schemes.

Previous editions can be download here.

Scottish energy market overview

You can read an overview of the Scottish energy market here.

Scottish Government energy feed