Sustainable Energy

Work to install a tidal turbine in waters off China has been completed, despite the coronavirus pandemic

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Key Points
  • The tidal stream turbine, which has a rotor diameter of 18 meters, was installed off China's east coast.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the renewable energy sector in several ways. 
SIMEC Atlantis Energy

A tidal stream turbine has been installed off the Chinese coast, with work on the project taking place against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 500-kilowatt tidal stream turbine, which has a rotor diameter of 18 meters, was installed in the past week in the Zhoushan archipelago off China's east coast.

Tidal energy is the exploitation of the "the natural ebb and flow of coastal tidal waters," according to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. A number of technologies can be used to convert these tides into power, including tidal stream turbines. In simple terms, they could be described as resembling underwater wind turbines.

SIMEC Atlantis Energy (Atlantis), through a partnership with ITPEnergised, worked on the scheme in China with The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) and China Three Gorges.

Acknowledging the challenges currently facing all businesses, Atlantis said that CSIC's facilities in Wuhan had "in recent months had to deal with being at the centre of the outbreak of the coronavirus."

"The fast execution, from concept design to installation, represents a phenomenal feat of engineering that bodes well for a rapid future roll-out of tidal power in China, which in turn will have material cost reduction implications globally," Tim Cornelius, the chief executive of Atlantis, said in a statement.

Atlantis is involved in another tidal stream project called MeyGen, located in waters off the north coast of Scotland.

In an update in January the business, which has a 77% stake in the MeyGen scheme, said it had sent more than 13.8 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity to the grid in 2019, almost double 2018's 7.4 GWh.

Atlantis is one of several firms working on projects that use tidal streams to produce energy.

Other companies involved in the sector include Orbital Marine Power, which at the end of March signed up for a second berth at EMEC. If all goes to plan, this development will enable Orbital Marine Power to eventually launch a 4 megawatt floating tidal turbine farm.

Coronavirus challenges

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the renewable energy sector in several ways, including supply chain disruption and the forced closure of some manufacturing facilities.

Last week, research and consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie said as much as 150 gigawatts of solar and wind projects in the Asia-Pacific region could be either delayed or canceled between 2020 and 2024, if the "coronavirus-led recession" continued past this year.

In the same week, wind turbine firm Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) withdrew financial guidance for the 2020 financial year.

In a statement dated April 21, SGRE said the uncertainty associated with Covid-19 was "compounding challenges in India and Northern Europe."

SGRE's decision to suspend guidance followed that of Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, which also recently announced a decision to lay off around 400 employees.