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Tide-power exports could be a big earner

By Nick Mann

GUERNSEY could become a world leader in renewable energy and has the potential to export electricity to the UK and Europe.

Investment in tidal power would not only have environmental benefits, it might help provide the island with a stable economy in the future.

Peter F. Smith, special professor in sustainable energy at the University of Nottingham, believes the Bailiwick is ideally placed to take advantage of a technology that is becoming increasingly viable.

‘It’s in for the big time and, if I was younger, I would emigrate,’ he said.

‘It will have a tremendous future; with money [the finance sector] on the decline, this is it. There’s no better.’

The chief executive of renewable energy specialists Blue Energy Canada, Martin Burger, said that with its tidal range of over 20ft, the Bailiwick could produce 25,000MW of low-cost power.

‘A sub-sea power cable feeding back to the UK and into the EU grid makes infinite sense,’ he said. Guernsey ‘could be in the running to become the global seat for tidal power technology’.

Prof. Smith backs the company’s tidal-fence technology, which allows the free flow of water, silt and fish. ‘The biggest problem is the investors. It’s not horrendously expensive, not as expensive as a tidal barrage, and, from their point of view, it’s a good long-term investment; it can have a 100-year life.’

With rising oil prices and a French nuclear industry that is, in the professor’s view, becoming obsolete, he said Guernsey would be stronger using an independent power source.

He estimates Guernsey could produce a third of the UK’s total energy output using tidal fence technology.

‘I’m not sure how much energy Guernsey uses, but the rest of it the island could sell and some of it could be used to convert water into hydrogen.’

He said this was another big technology of the future and will be a power source for things like cars and buildings via fuel cells.

‘Guernsey should position itself to be a leader in the climate change competition.’

Guernsey Electricity recently invested £250,000 for an equity stake in Marine Current Turbines.

Its SeaGen project aims to develop the world’s first commercially-viable underwater turbine.

‘What is particularly attractive about the technology Guernsey Electricity has invested in is the results of the pilot study,’ said engineering director Steve Morris.

‘The prototype used in the first phase of the SeaGen project generated 25% more energy than anticipated.’

He said the company had been investigating power from renewable sources for several years; it remained open-minded to new technologies.

Environment Department chief officer Steve Smith said that it would be premature to judge which was the best way for future energy production.

‘In due course there’s a requirement for Guernsey to examine its energy policy in a wider sense,’ he said.

* The Alderney States is to discuss tidal power at its meeting this evening.

Published 18/5/2004