Technologies which harness tidal energy (i.e. tidal energy convertors or TECs) are in the advanced stages of development. Single TECs have been tested in UK waters for some time but only recently has a fully commercial, grid-connected array been installed. Despite the rapid progress the tidal sector is relatively immature and the greatest challenge is to find a cost-effective method to deploy these technologies at a large scale. Only then will these projects become commercially viable to developers and unlock the potential of tidal energy in the UK and worldwide.
Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, has awarded Jee £75k in funding to develop a conceptual design of its ‘Excalibur’ solution. The project, kicked off in October 2016, is due to be completed by June 2017. Jee’s Excalibur system is a novel subsea infrastructure solution for the deployment of tidal arrays and the protection of subsea array cables. It will enable the cost-effective installation and maintenance of TECs at an array scale and will standardise and modularise the design of the structural foundation, cables, cable protection system and the TEC connection to the infrastructure. Ultimately, the solution will reduce the levelised cost of energy (LCOE).
As a typically standard yet customisable off-the-shelf unit, the solution facilitates the quick installation of tidal turbines, thus reducing design and installation costs, as well as the lead times for these projects. The solution also enables maintenance of the TECs above the waterline without the need to disconnect or disrupt the power production. Together, this minimises the number of subsea activities meaning fewer vessels are required for less time.
John French, Head of Design at Jee, commented “Excalibur will reduce operation and maintenance costs and ultimately improve the reliability of tidal arrays. The combined cable protection system and innovative lifting system means that the difficulties associated with subsea cable connections are either eliminated or controlled. The system will allow for routine offshore inspections of the TECs without the need for heavy lift vessels or subsea intervention and the robust cable protection removes the need to inspect the cable”.
Jee is forming a steering committee of key stakeholders including tidal array farm developers, installation contractors and cable suppliers. The steering group will help shape the design, confirm the technical requirements and gain market feedback.
Innovate UK works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. Along with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Innovate UK established the Energy Catalyst to support new investments to accelerate innovation in the energy sector. The competition was open to any sector who could address the three key challenges facing the global energy sector – reducing emissions, improving security of supply and reducing cost.