The waves and tides that flow around our coastline have great potential as a source of renewable energy. However the technologies that could be used to convert the resource into electricity are yet to mature.
How marine energy works
There are several ways to convert wave and tidal flow into electricity, some of which are in use and many others which are under development. The most common systems in operation use moving water (from tides) to spin underwater turbines.
Pros and cons of marine energy
Marine energy systems generate no greenhouse gas emissions and devices are generally under water, so have little or no visual impact.
The downside is that the corrosive and destructive aspects of seawater make marine energy machinery difficult and expensive to build and maintain.
The future of marine energy
EECA administered the Marine Energy Deployment Fund between 2007 and 2011, which offered funding to get marine energy projects into the water. While some useful lessons were learned, none of the 6 projects selected for funding have gone ahead.
Large amounts of money are being spent around the world to commercialise different forms of marine energy. However, the abundance of cheaper renewable energy resources here makes it unlikely marine energy will contribute to the national grid in the foreseeable future.