Power generation from Wadden Sea promising

TNO examines six projects for Energy from Water

Energy generation from water has great potential in the Wadden Sea region and can supply the Wadden Islands with 83% of their electricity demand as early as 2030, if a number of conditions are met. By that year, the Wadden Sea could also supply 8% of the households in the coastal region with electricity. That conclusion is reached by research institute TNO based on research into six different initiatives from the business community for extracting Energy from Water (EuW). Climate Minister Rob Jetten received the research report Wednesday morning in The Hague. According to the Wadden Fund, the ball is now in the government's court: laws and regulations must be adjusted. Investments are also needed to achieve the intended upscaling before 2030.

Read the TNO report here

In the study, TNO looked at energy generation from wave action, from tidal action and from the mixing of salt and fresh water. The study was commissioned by the Wadden Fund in cooperation with the provinces of Friesland and Groningen, the North Holland Wadden Sea municipalities and two development organizations: the North Holland North Development Company and Invest-NL.

With this outcome of the study, the northern provinces are calling on the national government to accelerate the scaling up of EuW in order to jointly realize a further rollout in the Wadden Sea. "The deployment of other green energy complementary to wind and solar energy is crucial in the coming years to meet the climate goals in the Wadden region," said Rosan Kocken, chairman of the Wadden Fund and deputy in North Holland. The TNO study shows that Energy from Water can substantially contribute to making the islands completely self-sufficient in the medium term. On top of that, households in the coastal area can be supplied with 20% to 40% of their electricity demand.

This will require EuW installations in the Wadden Sea and along the North Sea coast with a combined capacity of approximately 300 megawatts. That capacity will only come about if, in the period up to 2030, governments enable the upscaling to market-ready technologies; by removing regulatory bottlenecks; by (financial) support for further upscaling; and by a broader assessment framework than just cost-based assessment.

Many benefits

The TNO study reviewed six existing Energy from Water (EuW) techniques. REDstack (energy from mixing fresh and salt water), Slow Mill (energy from wave power) and Sea Qurrent (energy from tidal ebb and flow) are 3 techniques that are already supported in practice by the Wadden Fund and tested in the Wadden area. Furthermore, three new techniques of Dutch Wave Power and Symphony Wave Power (both from wave power) and FLEB (tidal) were investigated. The researchers recommend acting on all six initiatives to increase the likelihood of achieving the Wadden Fund's goals.

Energie uit Water kent een aantal voordelen. Golven en getijden zijn er het hele jaar door en kunnen daardoor andere duurzame energiebronnen goed aanvullen. Door lokale opwek in de Waddenzee kan er direct worden geleverd aan gebruikers. Daardoor hoeft er minder stroom getransporteerd te worden naar de eilanden. “Energie uit Water kan bijdragen om de stroomvoorziening stabieler te maken’’, aldus Kocken. “Aanvullende opwekbronnen zijn nodig. Energie uit Water is één van de meest veelbelovende.”

Breaking down barriers

To accelerate the development of EuW, the central government must remove obstacles in the short term. TNO indicates that this will require "regulatory and legal changes that give the grid operators more room to take other factors into account when considering the order in which projects are connected." Therefore, the Wadden Fund advocates that the national government figure out how this can be better regulated so that the EuW technologies do not soon miss the boat.

Offshore wind and solar power producers are now at an advantage. They have access to the grid while EuW technologies do not yet have such access under the Electricity Act. Financing connection to EuW's grid is necessary to balance the business case in the start-up phase and to enable further scaling up and further development of the technologies around 2030.

Previous research shows that Energy from Water does not cause substantial damage to the environment and nature of the Wadden Sea and coastal area. Also, energy generation under water is less visible than on land. New nature is sometimes even created; Slow Mill and SeaQurrent have added new spawning areas for fish in the sea and new shellfish beds grow on the bottom anchors. However, some remaining knowledge questions about the ecological impact of multiple installations still need to be answered. This research will be supported by the Wadden Fund as part of the next scaling up phases of these techniques.