Future emerging technologies for the ocean energy sector: innovation and game-changers

While the ocean energy sector is still at an early stage of development, a new report analyses ten future emerging technologies to generate energy from the ocean tides and waves.

Moving to economically viable ocean energy technologies is a huge step towards decarbonisation and the growth of the blue economy in many coastal areas.

With only 17 MW compared to 15.8 GW of offshore wind of operating capacity installed in European waters, mostly as demonstration or first-of-a-kind precommercial projects, every technological solution proposed to bridge the gap between R&D stage and the commercialisation of ocean energy devices can be seen for the time being as a future emerging technology.

The report offers an array of innovations that can bring ocean energy to the market, but it still needs further R&D. The experts describe state of advancement of each of the ten ocean energy technology families, advantages, technological limitations, as well as their technology readiness level.

Tidal energy

  • The first generation of tidal energy converters is heading the group.
  • They have reached the pre-commercial stage with the total installed capacity of around 12 MW in Europe and the speed of development is medium, with devices having reached maturity after 10+ years of R&D.
  • Floating tidal devices do not require heavy and costly foundation systems.
  • Speed of the technology development is medium/fast (meaning between less than 5 to 15 years), with some floating tidal platforms already at an advanced stage of development.
  • Third generation tidal energy converters extract energy from a tidal flow or water flow using the sails, kites, or simulating fish-swimming motion.
  • The speed of development is medium/fast, and is affected by the development of materials and ancillary technology.

Wave energy

  • Availability of testing facilities and new computational tools are making research more accessible and opening up new opportunities leading to novel approach to the first generation of wave energy concepts.
  • Advancement of artificial intelligence and learning algorithms offer an opportunity for developing designs which are more efficient.
  • Development speed is in medium-slow range.
  • Novel wave energy concepts exploit the material-flexibility and the orbital velocities of water particles to convert wave power to electricity.
  • Yet they are at early stages of development, with no device installed in real sea and the maximum power rating for the device yet to be identified.

Conclusions and recommendations for further work

An integrated systems approach is required to develop successful marine energy systems; therefore collaboration with industry and engagement with original equipment manufacturers from the early stage of development is recommended.

The transferability of solutions from other sector, as well as the development of new technologies and materials could impact significantly on the speed of development of future emerging technologies for ocean energy.

The impact of the future emerging technologies should be put in the context of the priorities for the ocean energy sector as identified through the Ocean Energy Roadmap and the SET-Plan Implementation Plan.

For the full report, please click here

By Martine Farstad