France’s promising but stalled tidal power play has found a breakthrough with a first turbine in over a decade going into the water, as Nova Innovation installed a small-scale version of its seabed-mounted design in the Étel Estuary on the country’s west coast.
Deployment of the 50kW version of the Scottish technology developer’s two-bladed concept – which has been trialled at megawatt-scale in the Sheltland Islands and is set for a maiden outing this summer in Canada’s Bay of Fundy – has been backed by the EU’s €5m ($5.35m) Element marine renewables technology development scheme.
“This tidal energy trial opens up a whole new global market to supply towns and cities near rivers with clean green electricity,” said Nova CEO Simon Forest. “This proves that [our] tidal technology can be deployed in rivers and estuaries as well as seas and oceans.
“Nova’s turbines create no visual impact or navigational hazard, so the community using the Étel, ranging from oyster fishermen to kayakers, are unaffected by the turbines.”
Forest added that Nova had “thousands of hours of seabirds and marine mammals surveys and tens of thousands of hours of underwater footage showing our turbines have [had] no negative impacts on the marine environment” at the Scottish project site.
Nova worked together with partners Chantier Bretagne-Sud, ABB and Innosea on the manufacturing of the subsea systems for the tidal power unit, which features a direct-drive power train, while France Energies Marine handled environmental monitoring and Ideta community engagement.
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Forest said: “The potential for tidal energy in France is huge and this pan-European collaboration has demonstrated a continued path of cost reduction alongside enhanced reliability.”
France showed first-mover promise in the global tidal power sector with its flagship 4MW Paimpol-Bréhat array switched-on in 2011 but decommissioned in 2018, and several larger developements, including the multi-hundred megawatt Raz Blanchard spiked due to uncompetitive costs.
Industry advocacy body Ocean Energy Europe warned recently that the EU’s targets for marine renewables deployment would not be met without a radical gear-up in industry development, with fewer wave and tidal power projects installed in 2022 than any other year in over a decade.
The EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy, launched over two years ago, laid out the goal of having100MW of ocean energy projects operating by 2025 and 1GW by 2030. But only 67kW of new tidal stream capacity was deployed in 2022 – the lowest addition per year since 2010 – and only 59kW of wave energy devices (WECs), taking total operational tidal plant to 13MW and 400kW of WECs.