Red tape still harming investment in wave power

Despite having “the best tidal resources in Europe”, the need for approval from up to 14 agencies is still causing wave power projects to move abroad.

The revelation has been made by John Hassard, CEO of innovative energy company RVco, whose first commercial power station will be built in Iceland this year. Despite having sufficient venture capital lined up in the UK, RVco moved the project overseas due to inevitable delays from planning procedures.

Despite a recent announcement by Energy Minister Peter Hain of a “one-stop-shop” at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to assist in getting consent for new plants, (see related story), Hassard found out that his plant could take up to two years to gain approval and so moved the project to Iceland, where only one telephone call was required. “One woman was in charge of planning permission, the environmental impact study, the national grid,” he said. “Wave power could supply 25% of UK electricity in 20 years” Hassard told edie. “Britain has the best tidal resources in Europe and it would be very simple to develop tidal power.”

Dr Hassard, a physicist at Imperial College and colleague Geoff Rochester set up RVco Ltd in 2000 to exploit a new innovation which allows the generation of electricity from tidal energy without requiring any moving parts below water level.

The RVco technology relies on the fact that accelerated water drops in pressure. By accelerating the water flow into a choke (the Rochester Venturi), the pressure drop can be used to drive a turbine above the water surface. The technique effectively concentrates the low-grade energy in the ocean currents into a rapid flow of a smaller quantity of water in a pipe to the shore where it can drive electricity-generating turbines. With no moving parts below water, the RVco team are confident that they have rewritten the cost/benefit equations for tidal energy.

The company believes that the cost of RV generated energy is likely to be below 10p/kWh and could be as little as 2.5p/kW-h, including all installation and running costs. Properly designed and implemented RV systems are unlikely to adversely affect the environment.

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