By Dave Elliott
Technological innovation is exciting but risky: blue skies thinking can open up possibilities, but they also have to be tested against reality. It’s easy to get deceived by early hopeful predictions of potential success and allegedly ‘game changing’ developments. We are regularly hit by blasts of enthusiastic coverage of hi tech innovations in the energy field, but not all of it will prove to be viableSome of it may be: there is certainly much enthusiasm about using graphene:www.independent.co.uk/news/science/scientists-predict-green-energy-revolution-after-incredible-new-graphene-discoveries-9885425.html http://cleantechnica.com/2014/11/07/energy-storage-slam-dunk-graphene-carbon-nanotubes/ But some might think that promises of viable fusion are a little premature: www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/compact-fusion.html and http://www.starscientific.com.au/muon-catalysed-fusion/.
Some of the new ideas may be real, some of it bunk…although positive news, if realistic, is always welcome. However, there has also been some seriously negative news – like the collapse of the Pelamis wave energy company late last year, as I reported in an earlier post. This was followed by the downsizing of Aquamarine, the developer of the in-shore hinged-flap Oyster wave device. The Scottish government did what it could to help, setting up a new technology development body, Wave Energy Scotland, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-30202166 . But initial failures are part of the innovation process- they can be leant from. Even so, wave energy seems to be much harder to harvest than undersea tidal flows – though, as I also reported, even the tidal turbine option is facing problems, with Siemens seeking to divest itself of the pioneering UK company Marine Current Turbines, which it took over in 2012.
We are at risk of closing down options. Whereas diversity seems a good principle, especially at an early stage in the innovation process, spreading risk across a range of renewable energy projects. So it would arguably be unwise to abandon wave energy- or tidal power. Like wind, which was ignored by the UK in the 19070s in favour of wave and tidal barrages, both could yet prosper, with costs falling. Though it seems clear that wind will do better- especially off shore wind, and floating wind turbines in particular. e.g. see: www.alstom.com/products-services/product-catalogue/power-generation/renewable-energy/wind-power/offshore-wind-turbines/haliade-150-6mw-offshore-wind-turbine/