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The world’s most powerful tidal turbine just got a major funding boost

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FTI

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Orbital Marine Power’s O2 turbine at the Orkney Islands, north of the Scottish mainland, in September 2021. Scotland has become a hub for companies and projects focused on tidal power and marine energy in general.
William Edwards | AFP | Getty Images

Scottish engineering firm Orbital Marine Power said Monday it secured ?8 million ($9.64 million) in funding to “finance the ongoing operation” of its O2 tidal turbine, in another step forward for the fledgling tidal power sector.

In an announcement, Orbital Marine Power said ?4 million had come from the Scottish National Investment Bank, which was set up by the Scottish government in November 2020. The other ?4 million comes from Abundance Investment, through more than 1,000 individual investors.

“These debt facilities will be serviced by the long-term sale of electricity from the turbine, forecast at around 100 gigawatt hours of clean predictable energy, delivered to the UK grid or hydrogen electrolysers over its project life,” Orbital said.

According to Orbital Marine Power, its 2-megawatt O2 weighs 680 metric tons and has a 74-meter hull structure. The company describes the O2, which uses 10-meter blades and started grid-connected power generation last year, as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine.”

Mark Munro, executive director at the SNIB, said its investment in Orbital aligned with its “mission to support home-grown innovation and the just energy transition.”

“The company’s unique and scalable approach to tidal stream energy has an important role to play in the journey towards net zero,” Munro added.

Scotland has had a long association with North Sea oil and gas production, but in recent years it’s also become a hub for companies and projects focused on tidal power and marine energy in general.

Orkney, an archipelago in waters north of mainland Scotland, is home to the European Marine Energy Centre. At EMEC, wave and tidal energy developers can test and assess their technology in the open sea. Orbital’s O2 turbine is at an EMEC site.

Last year, New York-listed TechnipFMC, which supplies technology to the energy sector, announced a strategic investment in Orbital Marine Power.

Europe’s energy transition

European installations of tidal and wave energy capacity jumped in 2021, as the ocean energy sector saw deployments revert to pre-pandemic levels and a substantial increase in investment.

In March, Ocean Energy Europe said 2.2 megawatts of tidal stream capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared with just 260 kilowatts in 2020. For wave energy, 681 kW was installed in Europe in 2021, which OEE said was a threefold increase on 2020.

Globally, 1.38 MW of wave energy came online in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed.

While there is excitement about the potential of marine energy, the overall size of tidal stream and wave projects remains very small compared with other renewables.

In 2021 alone, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity, according to figures from industry body WindEurope.

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