Supporting the breakthrough of ocean energy

May. 17 2023


The ocean represents a vast and virtually untapped renewable energy source, but marine renewable energy (MRE) technologies capable of harnessing that power are not yet fully mature. Compared to fixed offshore wind and floating wind solutions, which are commercially viable, tidal and wave power still have a long road ahead to help meet the world’s growing energy needs.

The International Energy Agency has outlined the requirements to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050. The scenario calls for 27 TWh of ocean power generation by 2030. However, only 1.6 TWh of ocean energy were produced in 2020, and the industry has experienced relatively slow progress since then. MRE technology developers are now fine-tuning their prototypes, looking to secure the financing to scale up their arrays and realize the potential of tidal and wave power over the long-term.

The many advantages of ocean energy technologies:

  • Located in areas of strong current and shallow water, their energy yields are high and easily predictable.
  • Design advances are being made to improve reliability and cost efficiency. For example, the use of composite, non-metallic materials in tidal turbine blades has opened new design possibilities while reducing maintenance needs.
  • Tidal and wave arrays also benefit from being more easily accepted among coastal communities. Their limited visual and noise pollution makes them less controversial than wind farms.

Tidal and wave energy conversion technology are the most advanced from a commercial standpoint. In Europe and North America, tidal systems are approaching technological maturity, with pre-commercial arrays being developed. In terms of wave energy, power takeoff systems are also maturing with a high level of reliability.

Despite this promise and progress in certain countries, other forms of MRE technology have not yet attracted the same global levels of interest as fixed and floating offshore wind.

Regulatory and financial landscape

Beyond technological advances, MRE requires significant development in two key areas to scale up further: regulatory and financial. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) regulates the industry via its standardization working groups, ensuring that tidal and wave technology developers operate according to the same standards. However, the industry is subject to local variations in leasing and permitting.

Nations with a more advanced MRE industry – in Europe and North America - have implemented designated areas for farms of wave energy converters (WEC) or tidal turbines and well-defined leasing and permit procedures. Public funding is readily available for prototyping of such farms. However, less funding is available for larger machines with higher production capacity, which makes scaling up a challenge. With a strong certification methodology in place, innovative technologies can gain acceptance and commercial viability.

Bureau Veritas approves and certifies MRE equipment to assist technology developers in establishing trust relationships with financers. One recent example is HydroQuest’s OceanQuest tidal turbine power curve, installed in EDF’s test site off the Breton coast in France, with a capacity of 1MW. Bureau Veritas certified the equipment to the IEC 62600-200 standard in 2020. The prototype was retrieved in late 2021 after 2.5 years of testing under real conditions to gather information to further finetune the design. Bureau Veritas has since renewed its collaboration with HydroQuest, to provide Type Certification for its latest prototype and also certified a power curve for Sabella in 2022.


Expertise Leader, Structure and Hydrodynamics

Bureau Veritas Marine and Offshore

Tomorrow’s energy demands will be vast, and the ocean provides a huge untapped resource to help us meet those needs. When it comes to tidal and wave power, by far the biggest challenge is the ability to scale up. Bureau Veritas is supporting developers and building trust in the technology to secure vital investments.

Addressing barriers to tidal power adoption

Bureau Veritas is actively working to advance MRE. From 2018 to 2021, Bureau Veritas coordinated RealTide, a 45-month long research project in collaboration with prominent MRE researchers and MRE engineering companies. The goal was to investigate the primary causes of tidal turbine failure in complex environmental conditions. By examining the issues of high energy costs and tidal monitor reliability, RealTide sought out innovative ways to adapt key components for enhanced reliability in turbulent tide environments. Advanced monitoring systems and maintenance strategies were implemented to improve performance over the full tidal turbine life.

RealTide presented a remarkable opportunity to gather and share tidal energy expertise. The RealTide website documents research and findings to share knowledge across the industry, including reports produced during the project.

As France’s representative to the IEC, Bureau Veritas is an active thought leader in clean marine renewable energies. We also give feedback on IEC TS 62600-10 Mooring Assessment as a further contribution to this body. We provide dedicated MRE guidelines in NI 631 Certification Scheme for Marine Renewable Energy Technologies, which is based on IEC guidelines and covers tidal turbines, wave energy converters, and other technologies.

Our qualified risk experts reassure investors by de-risking all types of MRE technology. We certify new technologies through a step process involving an approval in principle, prototype certification, component and type certification, and project certification. Developers receive written standards explaining measurable criteria for new unit construction.