London's River Thames set to trial new tidal energy technologies

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The Port of London Authority has given the go ahead for trials of tidal energy technology on a section of the Thames, in a move which could eventually help to decarbonize operations connected to the river.

The mooring for the trials is situated on a part of the river between the areas of Thamesmead and Woolwich, in southeast London, which is passed by commercial cargo ships, cruise ships and recreational river users.

Against this backdrop, the PLA says it’s looking to “encourage the use of microgeneration,” with the new site enabling developers to undertake both scale and full size trials of their systems.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Tanya Ferry, the organization’s head of environment, said research had shown the river “could provide a power supply for operators and pier owners.”

Ferry went on to explain that although traditional tidal turbine technology was unlikely to be a viable option because of diminishing space, the mooring would provide developers with the “opportunity to test other emerging technologies on the Thames.”

The PLA says it will use information gathered from the trials to “inform future investment decisions.”

London is not the only major city looking to assess the feasibility of tidal power. In the United States, New York’s East River is home to Verdant Power’s Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project, which has been in development since 2002.

In late October 2020, the initiative took another step forward when a new tidal power array consisting of three turbines was installed.

While there is growing interest in marine based energy systems, the current footprint of these technologies remains quite small.

Recent figures from Ocean Energy Europe show that only 260 kilowatts (kW) of tidal stream capacity was added in Europe last year, while just 200 kW of wave energy was installed.

By contrast, 2020 saw 14.7 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy capacity installed in Europe, according to industry body WindEurope.