Not-for-profit Welsh developer Menter Môn is providing the financial support that will see Scottish renewables outfit Orbital Marine setup a commercial-scale tidal turbine, which can supply 1,500 homes with power.
This isn’t the first large-scale test for Orbital Marine Power, which previously launched a similarly designed SR2000 turbine in 2016 when the company was known as Scotrenewables Tidal Power. That test produced more than 3-gigawatt hours of electricity during its 12-month test programme.
The SR2000 placed two 16-metre-long rotor blades, weighing 500 tonnes, spinning at a maximum of 16 rpm, into water 25m or more deep.
The Orbital O2 design was unveiled in mid-November, and will comprise a 73-metre-long steel floating superstructure supporting two 1 MW turbines. This provides a total power output of 2MW, at a tidal current speed of 2.5 m/s. With rotor diameters of 20 metres, it will have a 600sqm rotor area, which is dramatically smaller than a wind turbine at a similar output. Wind turbines, by way of comparison, can have rotors up to five times this size for the equivalent power output, needing to capture far more air to generate as much power.
In addition, in an improvement over the SR2000, the new system features a simpler steel structure, along with 360-degree blade pitching control. That should allow dynamic control of the machine’s rotors to capture energy during tide movements in both directions, without needing to turn the platform.
Orbital is saying this installation will be the largest ever on a single tidal generating platform to date, and by 2020, even the most powerful tidal generating platform in the world.
"The Morlais project gives us line of sight to a commercial and scalable tidal energy array in U.K. waters," Andrew Scott, the CEO of Orbital Marine Power, said this week.
"The concentration of tidal energy off the coast here, supported by great infrastructure in North Wales, makes this an ideal location to build out a new marine industry that can create new demand for skills and services both locally and further afield."
As for the costs? We don’t know. Orbital Marine Power hasn’t revealed the cost of the project as yet, nor revenue or payback periods - it would appear to be a fact-finding mission at this early stage.
What we do know is that the company has had significant investment in the past, from partners such as ABB and TOTAL. It is currently raising investment via the Abundance direct investment platform, which raises funds for people to invest in renewable energy projects. The platform has already raised more than 10 million GBP. At the time of writing, Orbital Marine were seeking 7 million GBP, and had raised 56 per cent of the funds required.
Similar projects also using the massive natural energy resources around Wales' coastline include Minesto Energy, who are using "underwater planes" to tap into tidal power, and Bombora Wave Power, who are developing a device to capture the wave energy that's accessible underneath the water's surface.