Japanese shipping giant Nippon Yusen Kaisha is to take part in a tidal power project planned for Singapore, as the emerging marine energy sector gains traction.
The demonstration project, run by Singapore-owned Bluenergy Solutions, is focused on the development of off-grid tidal power systems. The hope is that they could one day replace diesel generators.
The scheme will see three-bladed turbines — parts of which bear a resemblance to the ones used on wind farms — deployed underwater.
NYK said it would be working on three areas as part of the off-grid project: energy storage, the cost of power generation and the efficiency of power generation.
Established in 1885, Tokyo-listed NYK is involved in bulk shipping, air cargo transportation and logistics, among other things.
Last week’s announcement represents its latest foray into tidal power. It was previously involved in a project that installed turbines beneath the Sentosa Boardwalk, which links the Singapore mainland to Sentosa Island.
Projects like the ones being planned for Singapore are in their early stages, but Asia is already home to South Korea’s Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Plant. A tidal barrage power plant, it started operations in 2011 and is said to be the largest tidal plant in the world.
According to U.S. database Tethys, tidal barrages are “typically built across the entrance to a bay or estuary” and produce electricity by harnessing “the difference in water height inside and outside of the structure.”
While tidal barrage developments were the initial focus of those operating in the marine energy industry — EDF’s La Rance tidal barrage dates back to the 1960s, for example — recent years have seen companies focus their attention on different systems.
These include tidal stream devices which, the European Marine Energy Centre says, “are broadly similar to submerged wind turbines.”
Lots of potential, work to be done
The International Energy Agency has said that “marine technologies hold great potential,” but adds that extra policy support for research, development and demonstration is required to reduce costs.
Away from Asia, European installations of tidal and wave energy capacity jumped in 2021, as deployments reverted to pre-pandemic levels amid a substantial increase in investment.
In March, Ocean Energy Europe said 2.2 megawatts of tidal stream capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared with just 260 kilowatts in 2020. For wave energy, 681 kilowatts was installed in Europe in 2021, which OEE said was a threefold increase on 2020.
Globally, 1.38 MW of wave energy came online in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed.
While there is excitement about the potential of marine energy, the overall size of tidal stream and wave projects remains very small compared with other renewables.
In 2021 alone, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity, according to figures from industry body WindEurope.