The Crown Estate, manager of the UK seabed, has awarded an ‘Agreement for Lease’ for a commercial demonstration site for electricity production from tidal currents to marine energy company Minesto. Minesto will prepare consent application for the site near Holyhead Island in Wales prior to the construction of a 10MW marine energy array in 2016, which will supply electricity to approximately 8,000 households, and make Wales a world leader in marine energy.
The decision forms part of The Crown Estate’s UK-wide wave and tidal stream leasing round, which saw rights awarded for for five new tidal stream sites across the UK, each with the potential to deliver a project of between 10 and 30 MW capacity. Minesto plans to start the installation of a 10MW marine energy array in 2016. The Welsh waters hold a potential of several 1000’s of MW, which makes Wales one of the most suitable places in the world for low velocity tidal energy.
The Carbon Trust expressed its support for The Crown Estate’s decision: “The Carbon Trust has provided technical and innovation support to Minesto since 2007. We are now excited to see they have achieved this Agreement for Lease since it opens the path to commercial roll-out of the technology. Minesto’s innovative technology has the potential to significantly expand the UK’s tidal resource, by unlocking lower velocity tidal flows, and lowering the cost of marine energy,” said David Aitken, Head of Incubation, The Carbon Trust.
Wales has 1,200 kilometres of coastline that is rich in low -velocity tidal currents. In addition, Wales has strategically located deep-sea ports and – most importantly – access to the national UK grid. The existing grid capacity reduces the time for commercial roll-out and is likely to make Wales the leading region for marine energy in the UK. A report commissioned by the Welsh government shows that marine energy could boost the Welsh economy by up to £840m annually after 1GW has been deployed.
Rob Hastings, Director of Energy and Infrastructure at The Crown Estate said: “By providing these additional seabed rights we are pleased to be enabling further technology development and commercialisation, which will be critical if the UK is to unlock its significant natural resources for wave and tidal current energy.”
Stakeholder engagement and environmental investigations have been ongoing since 2012, and Minesto works closely with universities and research organisations in Wales. The establishment of Minesto’s 10MW Deep Green array requires a large variety of competences and creates immediate local jobs in a rapidly expanding sector.
Minesto will now further develop the project, which includes in depth environmental studies, detailed seabed mapping, cable routing and commercial activities. The Holyhead Deep site is located approximately seven kilometres from the shore where the water depth is 80-90 meters. The tidal currents are 1.5-2.5m/s. The area has been carefully selected to maintain separation from shipping lanes and to minimise the impact on other sea users.
Minesto’s tidal power plant, called Deep Green, looks like an underwater kite and is based on a fundamentally new principle for electricity generation from tidal and ocean currents. Deep Green is the only known marine power plant to generate electricity from low velocity tidal currents, which greatly enhances the potential for marine energy.
The agreement for lease for the site of Holyhead Deep was announced by The Crown Estate, alongside a number of agreements for seabed rights across the UK. These comprised demonstration zones and project sites including three off the coast of England, four off the coast of Scotland, one in Northern Ireland and three off the coast of Wales. As manager of the UK seabed, The Crown Estate grants rights to organisations to operate on the seabed. However, any projects must go through the planning process, including public consultation, gaining consent from relevant planning authorities before development can commence. The Crown Estate is an independent commercial business, established by Act of Parliament. 100% of its annual profits are returned to the Treasury for the benefit of the public finances.