The UK has enormous sources of renewable energy in the waves, tides and wind around our shores. Subsea and offshore renewables will contribute to our energy security needs in the future as well as helping us to reduce our carbon footprint.
Offshore Wind Turbines
Off shore wind is the dominant technology. The principal of a wind turbine is simple – the energy in the wind turns two or three rotor blades which are connected to a shaft, which consequently spins, turning a generator and producing electricity. This simplicity belies the challenges of operating off-shore. It is a harsh environment, making installation, operation and maintenance a feat of technological ingenuity. The offshore wind industry in the UK currently produces 9% of the UK’s electricity, producing about 15 terawatts of electricity, and powering almost 3 million homes.
Subsea Tidal Power
A criticism of wind technology is that it is not always available – electricity is only produced when it is windy. This is, to some extent, unpredictable and variable. The same cannot be said of subsea electrictricity generation. Tides are much more predictable, and, for example, the Gulf Stream is always flowing. Tidal wand wave power can produce 20% of our electricity needs. The UK leads the world in wave and tidal technologies, with more pilot plants being tested in UK waters than the rest of the world combined.
Tidal wave systems operate on a similar principle to wind turbines, except that the energy to drive the turbines comes from undersea currents instead of winds. The beauty of undersea currents is that they are constant, which means that subsea turbines can contribute to base load electricity requirements.
The use of subsea and offshore renewables save over 100 million tonnes of CO2 annually. This is the equivalent of 3 million people becoming vegan for a year.