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Minesto Signals New Era for Tidal Power with Its Groundbreaking Plant, Unleashing Ocean Energy

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Swedish marine energy technology company Minesto achieved a historic milestone as Dragon 12, its tidal power plant built for large-scale electricity production, was successfully commissioned. For the first time, the power plant, which has a power output capacity of 1.2 MW, delivered electricity to the national grid in the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. 

This big feat was achieved in the early morning of February 9 by the ocean energy developer's first tidal energy kite on a megawatt scale. The Dragon 12 was able to generate electricity at satisfactory levels in its first phase of operation, noted the company. 

Calling it a “big day” for the company, Minesto noted in its official statement that this is the “most significant milestone in the history of the company.” 

The Swedish marine energy technology company (Nasdaq Stockholm: MINEST), which has a market cap of about $100 mln, develops and manufactures tidal and ocean current power plants. It aims to minimize the global carbon footprint of the energy industry by enabling commercial power production from the ocean. 

The company has received funding of more than €40 million from the European Regional Development Fund through the European Innovation Council, the Welsh European Funding Office, and InnoEnergy, making the company EU's largest investment in marine energy to date. 

Its latest tidal energy kite, Dragon 12, is 12-meter wide and 28-ton heavy. The subsea kite is anchored to the seabed with a tether. Powered by the tidal flow, Dragon 12 is steered in an 8-shaped flight trajectory. 

Dragon 12 has been scaled up tenfold from its predecessor, the 100 kW Dragon 4, to deliver competitive performance and cost levels for the construction of large-scale commercial subsea parks of tidal power plants.

By producing electricity for the grid with its megawatt-scale power plant, Minesto's Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Martin Edlund, stated that it sets a: 

“New agenda for renewable energy build-out in many areas of the world.”

He added:

“The competitiveness of the Dragon 12 is straight to the point; it's powerful, cost-effective, and feeds predictable electricity to the grid.” 

The Potential of Tidal/Wave Energy

Harnessing the power of ocean tides and waves has long interested scientists, researchers, and engineers looking for sustainable energy sources. This renewable energy, popular for its natural occurrence, has been gaining special attention as the world searches for sustainable ways to meet the ever-increasing demand.

To understand the potential of tidal energy, let's first understand its mechanics. Tidal energy is power generated by the natural movement of ocean waters' rise and fall. At the root of it is the gravitational forces between the Earth, Moon, and Sun, which causes the ocean waters to rise and fall. This movement is then harnessed by power plants that use turbines or barrages to convert kinetic energy into electricity. 

Given that oceans cover the majority of our planet and there is an abundance of coastal regions worldwide, the potential for tidal energy is vast. The regions with strong tidal currents, in particular, offer great potential for utilizing the power of tides. By taking advantage of these resources, we can significantly cut down our dependence on nonrenewable energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas and advance toward a more sustainable future.

Not only does tidal power generation offer a promising alternative to traditional fossil fuels, but it also has benefits over other renewable sources like solar and wind energy, which depend on weather conditions. In contrast, tides can be accurately forecasted, and this predictability allows for better planning and integration. Moreover, the regular ebb and flow of tides offers a reliability that makes it a stable source of power.

Its reliance on the natural movements of tides makes it inherently sustainable, thus becoming an essential component of a stable energy mix. Additionally, it can stimulate local economies due to the requirement for skilled labor. Besides creating job opportunities, such projects can also lead to the development of supporting industries, further boosting economic growth.

Tidal energy systems have a smaller physical footprint and can be installed underwater, making this energy an attractive option for coastal communities.

However, efficiency and cost-effectiveness are crucial for the tidal energy project's widespread adoption. Moreover, economic considerations such as initial capital costs for the development and maintenance of infrastructure development must be kept in mind as they can be substantial. Not to mention, it must be ensured that habitats and marine life are protected when constructing and operating tidal power plants.

Then, there are technical and engineering challenges that must be addressed in regard to designing and constructing robust turbine systems to optimize power extraction efficiency. They must also be able to withstand the corrosive marine environment and work reliably for a long period of time.

As we noted, tidal energy has clear potential to offer a clean and renewable source of electricity that can bring considerable benefits, including economic gains for local communities, mitigation of climate change, and serving as a catalyst for sustainable development.

Even governments around the world are trying to understand the ocean better in order to take full advantage of it. Jeff Marootian, principal deputy assistant secretary in the office of energy efficiency and renewable energy with the US Department of Energy (DOE), late last year when it launched the program Powering the Blue Economy: Power at Sea Prize.

Jeff Marootian, principal deputy assistant secretary in the office of energy efficiency and renewable energy with the US Department of Energy (DOE), spoke late last year during the launch of the program, Powering the Blue Economy: Power at Sea Prize, saying:

“Marine energy technologies have incredible potential to power systems out at sea that serve broad societal needs, like collecting data about our vast and largely unexplored oceans.” 

Revolutionary Solutions Harnessing Tidal/Wave Energy

When it comes to harnessing tidal energy, projects utilize tidal energy generators to produce a steady, reliable stream of electricity. The first-ever commercial-scale tidal power station, built about two decades ago at Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, marked a significant milestone.

Most tidal energy generators employ turbines—machines that capture energy from the flow of air or water—in tidal streams. Alternatively, other types use a barrage, essentially a large dam. As the tide rises, the barrage gates open and then close at high tide to create a pool, releasing water through the turbines to generate energy. Additionally, there's the tidal lagoon, a body of ocean water enclosed by either man-made or natural barriers.

Advancements in technology play a crucial role in the efficient harnessing of energy, making it cost-effective. Over the years, not only companies but also governments have invested significant amounts of work in research and development to enhance various aspects of tidal energy systems.

Earlier this month, the Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research (TEAMER) program, which is dedicated to advancing the viability of marine renewables, awarded $1.3 million in funding to support the development of new marine energy devices, including tidal energy devices. This initiative has received support from the DOE and the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust.

While wave energy can help the US satisfy 60% of its electricity demand, the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory noted that before tapping into this “well of power, we need a new fleet of technologies to harness those waves—affordably,” hence, the financing. 

This is just the latest in TEAMER's series of funding rounds since its launch in 2019, which includes Verdant Power. The company has been testing tidal energy devices in the East River in New York City. It utilizes an underwater turbine resembling a short, squat wind turbine whose blades are made of plastic.

Another approach to tidal energy harvesting is a kite-like system that makes use of a kite's pumping action. Leveraging this approach, SRI International, a nonprofit research organization, created a device called Manta that generates power using an underwater kite to capture water currents's power to provide a “safe, environmentally and community-friendly power generation.”

Another way to harness tidal energy is using a device that looks like a flying saucer. Carnegie Clean Energy's wave energy technology is designed to assess the device under extreme conditions and establish standards for the industry. 

Then there's the Centipod Wave Energy device that bears a resemblance to a centipede. Its wave energy converter is a surface buoy connected to a buoyant backbone, which is anchored to the seabed with mooring lines.

Meanwhile, CorPower Ocean is harnessing the power of the Atlantic through its HiWave-5 system. The company's WEC design captures energy from the rise and fall of waves using a buoy, which is tethered to the seabed with a tensioned mooring system. It is engineered to be built in 10MW clusters, with several units connecting to a hub through which the power is exported to shore via cables. 

However, it wasn't the first attempt to tackle the Atlantic. In 2008, the Portuguese Minister of Economy opened a farm to Pelamis Wave Energy Converters to leverage the ocean surface waves, only to be shut down just two months later.

Now that we have covered different ways companies are innovating to leverage this renewable source of energy, let's take a look at its country-wise adoption.

In terms of installation of tidal energy capacity, Europe has been leading the way with 681 kW installed in 2021 in the region compared to 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity installed globally. Europe's tidal energy capacity, however, is nowhere near other sources, having 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity. This shows that while the excitement around marine energy and its potential is huge, its size remains small compared to other renewables. 

According to statistics released by Ocean Energy Europe, this growth has slowed down, with fewer ocean energy projects hitting European waters in 2022 than in any year since 2010. In contrast, global competitors like China and the US are quickly catching up. 

This shift has been due to public funding and policy support, with the US now committing multi-million dollars to ocean energy annually and building the world's largest wave energy test site. Canada and the UK are also providing dedicated revenue support.

Still, Europe is leading in terms of cumulative installed wave energy capacity. As per the EU's 2020 Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy, it has an ambitious target of 100MW of tidal and wave energy deployment in Europe by 2025 and a whopping 1GW by the end of this decade.

Companies Making Moves in the Tidal/Wave Energy Space

Now, we'll take a look at some prominent names that are helping take this sector forward:

#1. Orbital Marine Power

This Scotland-based company develops and operates tidal energy turbines. In 2022, Orbital Marine Power secured £8 million ($10 million) in funding, half of which came from the Scottish National Investment Bank and the other half from over 1,000 individual investors, to finance its O2 tidal turbine. The company's 2-megawatt O2 has a 74-meter hull structure, weighs 680 metric tons, and uses 10-meter blades.

A few months ago, Orbital secured two contracts for difference (CFD) for 7.2 MW of total tidal stream capacity, allowing it to expand its development of projects in Orkney. The company estimated that this capacity will be able to power up to 9,000 homes. In Oct., it was also selected by the European Commission to deliver a multi-turbine tidal energy project, EURO-TIDES.

#2. SIMEC Atlantis Energy 

Innovation in Tidal Energy - The EASME project

The UK-based developer of sustainable energy projects, SIMEC Atlantis, has a market cap of $10.5 million. The company shares (SAE) have been trading at $1.05 while having an EPS (TTM) of 0.48 and P/E (TTM) of 2.19. It reported a profit before tax of €5.2 mln for the first six months of fiscal 2023, as opposed to the loss of €9.9 million during the same period a year earlier. Their unaudited consolidated cash position, meanwhile, was €1.7 mln as of June 30, 2023.

In Feb. 2023, the company announced that its tidal stream array in the north of Scotland produced 50 gigawatt hours of electricity and was the first one to do so. The MeyGen array is made up of four 1.5 megawatt turbines, with three in operation at the time, and has a total capacity of 6 MW when fully operational. Last year, SIMEC Atlantis also secured 22MW over four CfDs from the UK government for MeyGen's Phase 2.

Final Thoughts 

Tidal energy offers a remarkable source of green and clean sources of electricity. But while it holds immense potential, the sector requires continued research, technological advancements, regulatory support, and responsible development practices to ensure that tidal energy is harnessed in the most efficient manner and help make it an economically viable option.

Click here for the list of ten best renewable energy stocks.

Gaurav started trading cryptocurrencies in 2017 and has fallen in love with the crypto space ever since. His interest in everything crypto turned him into a writer specializing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Soon he found himself working with crypto companies and media outlets. He is also a big-time Batman fan.