The Pulse: Tidal power’s surge – and ebbing; Iran’s nuclear power plans

2006 TV Land Awards - Backstage and AudienceWhen Kermit the Frog sang “It’s not easy being green” on the Muppet show, he must have had tidal power in mind.

While the technology still has to win commercial acceptance in some quarters, tidal projects – like their carbon dioxide-emitting competitors – can very easily run into objections. All this at a time when, according to a new report, the industry is moving towards commercialisation – at least in the United Kingdom.

That report, from IT Power, headquartered in Bristol, England, says the progress has been highlighted by a recent surge in the deployment of pre-commercial, full-scale tidal energy converters in UK waters. However, the report adds, there are challenges to overcome before the tidal energy industry matures and reaches its full potential.

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Those challenges include development of public policy to support the industry, strengthening of the supply chain in the sector, getting access to the grid for tidal projects, incentives to support projects in early stages of development and better test facilities and research support. (However, it must be added that England and Scotland already have some of the highest subsidies for marine energy, according to the Bloomberg news service – about $317 a megawatt hour, intended to plug the gap between its real cost of $440 and coal-fired power costs of $128 a megawatt-hour)

On the plus side, from Chile’s The Santiago Times comes news that the Chacoa Channel is going to be tested to see whether it could be harnessed for tidal electricity generation. The channel separates the mainland, just south of the city of Puerto Montt, from the Isla de Chileo. The newspaper claims the channel has the world’s third strongest tidal current and it is estimated that as much as 2,000MW of generating capacity could be installed there. Local scientists are being advised by the principal oceanographer from the University of Washington.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Flumill AS, a Norwegian builder of tidal energy machines, is raising 57.5 million kroner ($10 million) to install a generator off the country’s northern coast. It is planned to generate 2MW of power from the unit.

And then there are the opponents. From Everett, Washington, The Herald newspaper reports three Indian tribes are among the objectors to plans for two tidal generators at Admiralty Inlet (just across the water from Victoria, BC). The tribes say the generators could interfere with their fishing. Cable companies have also protested on grounds the generators could interfere with the trans-Pacific cables that run along the inlet’s sea floor.

And over in Canada, a proposal to test the waters of Skookumchuck Narrows just north of Vancouver for tidal power generation has received a firm thumbs down from the Sunshine Coast Regional District, reports the Sechett, BC-based Coast Reporter. Vancouver-based Western Tidal Holdings applied to the province last September for an investigative permit to explore the potential for a tidal energy generating facility in and around Skookumchuck Narrows, which forms the entrance to Sechelt Inlet. The newspaper says the council is concerned infrasound and higher decibel pulses could confuse or frighten certain juvenile salmonids and marine mammals.

URANIUM: Iran has tripled its estimates of the country’s uranium reserves and, as a consequence, is planning to build an additional 16 nuclear power reactors, The Financial Times reports. The Atomic Energy Organisation said the new plants would be built around the country, including on the Caspian Sea coastline and along the Sea of Oman in the south.

The newspaper said the announcement is intended to increase Iran’s bargaining power in its stand-off with the US and other countries over the nuclear program issue.


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Robin Bromby

About Robin Bromby

Robin Bromby is a journalist, author and sometime publisher who has had titles issued by mainstream publishers, including Doubleday, Simon & Schuster and Lothian Books. Robin began as a cadet journalist in 1962 with The Dominion, the morning paper in Wellington, New Zealand. He also worked for the NZ Broadcasting Corporation, TV1, the South China Morning Post, The Herald (Melbourne), the Sunday Times (Wellington), The National Times (Sydney) and, since 1988, he has been first a staff reporter and now columnist for The Australian and has been a Senior Editor for InvestorIntel since the onset.

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