Orbital closes £7m drive to bring tidal technology to market

UK ethical investment company Abundance has closed a £7m ($8.96m) crowd-funding drive for Orbital Marine Power, its largest to date, to move the Scottish tidal energy company’s 2MW turbine into commercial production.

The first of the company’s ocean-riding O2 design - which measures 73-metre-long and features a pair of hinged 16-metre-diameter turbines that can be raised or lowered to simplify transport, installation and maintenance - is expected to be built "in the next 12 months”, for deployment at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney during 2020.

The Abundance offer pulled in over 2,200 individual investors, with the average stake around £3,000.

“The UK can rightly claim to be a world leader in tidal generation technology and our customers have backed it enthusiastically,” said Bruce Davis, Abundance’s managing director.

“2019 promises to be the best year yet for the environmental and social investment sector."

Orbital chief executive Andrew Scott stated: “This funding result [is] a terrific endorsement of our technology and a clear signal that the UK public is hugely supportive of seeing tidal energy brought into the domestic and global energy mixes.”

The new design, he said, would “draw upon the success” of its forerunner, the same-sized SR2000, which was tested by Orbital – formerly known as Scotrenewables – at Emec, generating more than 3GWh of electricity during its initial year-long production stint in 2016.

ABB, DP Energy, Fred Olsen and Total New Energies have been among the technology’s supporters over recent years, as has the Scottish government, via its WATERS2 scheme.

After many years of industrial struggle, the tidal power sector looks to be gathering momentum, with Normandie Hydrolienne – a joint venture between Simec Atlantis Energy, regional development agency AD Normandie Développement and investment fund Normandie Participations – in November finalising plans to develop a “multi-hundred-MW” plant off the west coast of France that would be Europe’s first commercial-scale project.

According to 2016 forecasts from marine renewables sector body Ocean Energy Europe, the ocean energy industry could see 100GW of tidal and wave capacity built off Europe by 2050, supplying 10% of the EU’s current electricity demand.