Integrating Tidal Energy into the European Grid

Introduction

The Integrating Tidal Energy into the European Grid (ITEG) project aims to generate clean, predictable energy supply from renewable sources in areas with weak electricity networks  

Energy Systems Catapult is partnering with 15 cooperating organisations on this €11 million initiative, which is spearheaded by Interreg North-West Europe and led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

The project will deploy three low-carbon technologies that add 2MW of renewable energy capacity in Orkney, where EMEC has a world-leading tidal test facility. The consortium needed a partner to analyse the impact on the whole energy system – helping to create a robust business case for deployment at scale and to identify productive routes for technology development 

The Challenge and Opportunity

Proving the technology and demonstrating its value 

Remote communities like Orkney have strong renewable energy sources but weak electricity networks, so past renewables efforts have been limited by grid constraints. ITEG is designing solutions that will control electricity exports based on real-time limitations, with surplus capacity used to generate and store hydrogen for local use.  

Not only does the project need to prove the technology is viable, but it also needs to develop a compelling business casePart of this process involves finding ways to drive down the costs of pre-commercial demonstration, which are traditionally high because investors like to see technology proven in the sea at scale.  

Throughout the project, ITEG will aim to maintain 20 direct jobs and 40 indirect jobs, adopt 3 applied low carbon technologies, reduce GHG by an estimated 3000 tonnes, produce an additional capacity of 2MW of renewable energy and develop the cooperation of research institutions with 15 enterprises.

Our Approach

A robust, multi-vector and independent approach  

While many organisations and technologies in this area are young, and only a limited number are able to execute system-level engineering on a robust basis. Energy Systems Catapult takes a multi-vector approach, mixing unique Modelling capabilities with System Integration expertise, combined with our marine energy experience.  

In particular we will draw on:

  • Local Energy Systems Modelling of Orkney using our EnergyPath® Networks tool; 
  • National Energy Systems Modelling for UK and European analysis using Energy Systems Modelling Environment (ESME);
  • System Engineering and Integration teams will look at integration between the tidal turbine, electrolyser and local energy system to optimise for technical and economic performance;
  • Renewables & Marine Energy, Networks & Energy Storage and Hydrogen assets with contribute technical expertise; and
  • Consumer Insights will supporting social studies with the local community.

Chris Ward, Project Manager at EMEC, said: “We needed to work with an organisation that could support us to develop, test and demonstrate the multi-vector energy solution. Combining unparalleled expertise in this area with a collaborative approach, Energy Systems Catapult was the obvious choice.”  

The Innovation

Modelling technology and mapping Orkney’s energy system 

The innovative, multi-vector solution combines renewables and hydrogen generation. The Orbital O2 – Orbital Marine Power’s next-generation 2MW floating tidal energy converter – will be installed along with AREVA H2Gen’s new 500kW electrolyser and a bespoke energy management system. Orbital Marine Power is the only UK SME involved in ITEG, and the project is a milestone in its technical and commercial development.  

ITEG plans to have the combined solution operational for several months off the Orkney island of Eday. To support this, The Catapult is modelling the technology – building off previous renewable modelling work we’ve done – and looking at integration and control strategies to maximise benefits for network operators and other stakeholders while minimising costs.  

We will also leverage our EnergyPath® Networks capability to produce a detailed map and model of Orkney’s energy system. Looking at a range of future scenarios, we will consider: 

  • The circumstances where the technology adds the greatest value to the system. 
  • At what price point the solution becomes commercially viable in its own right. 
  • The specific benefits to the local system, such as improving energy supply to local homes and businesses, and well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

This brings in Catapult capabilities across modelling, systems engineering, consumer insights, infrastructure and engineering.  

A detailed analysis of opportunities and barriers 

With a weak electricity grid in Orkney, the tidal energy business case has been restricted by limits on the amount of energy that can be exported. Our work is looking at ways to overcome this challenge. 

The Catapult is leading the project’s long-term impacts work package. This aims to assess the technology’s benefits for the whole energy system, as well as the potential scale of future deployment. Our analyses will help optimise the solution, identify barriers to roll-out, formulate a roadmap and business case, and support initial permitting for high-priority sites.  

We can then use the Orkney demonstration as a springboard for understanding the opportunities and impacts for the rest of Scotland, the UK and northwest Europe.

The Impact  

Reduced risk and increased confidence 

The project was launched in May 2018 and is due to run until December 2020Energy Systems Catapult has been instrumental in the early stages. Taking a multidisciplinary and innovative approach, we’ve focused on system development and implementation planning, using our expertise to finetune specifications and provide supportive engagement. 

Ultimately, by demonstrating the tidal generator and electrolyser, we should reduce risk while increasing confidence among stakeholders and investors. The project will set out the potential benefits of the multi-vector solution based on rigorous system analysis, including a robust evaluation of where it will provide the most benefit. Along with a roadmap and business case, this should enable targeted and accelerated technology investment and widespread roll-out in coastal areas with similar resource availability and grid constraints. 

Chris Ward said: “The Catapult has been instrumental in supporting us to get the project off the ground, taking the lead on the long-term impacts work package and delivering additional support on everything from consumer insights to infrastructure. With their commitment to best practice and innovation, they bring a level of sophistication to the project that we couldn’t have found elsewhere. 

“The project is still in its early stages, but we’re confident that the collaboration will lead to accelerated investment and the widespread roll-out of the solution, integrating tidal energy into the European grid.” 

Background

Led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, the €11m ITEG project brings together partners from across the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands to address energy-related carbon emissions in North-West Europe and tackle grid export limitations faced in remote areas such as Orkney.

The project consortium includes EMECOrbital Marine PowerAREVA H2Gen, Energy Systems CatapultEnergy Valley/New Energy CoalitionUniversity of Caen NormandyUniversity of Le Havre NormandyGhent University and the Normandy Development Agency.

Funded by the Interreg NWE programme, part of the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), the project will deliver an onshore energy management system at EMEC’s Fall of Warness tidal test site, off the northern Orkney island of Eday.

The project will benefit from the marine energy expertise of the University of Caen Normandy who will support the development of the advanced energy management system and the University of Le Havre Normandy who will focus particularly on the impacts of converter choices on the quality of energy exchanges taking into account the specificities of hydrogen technologies.