Founded in 2002, Atlantis Resources develops tidal energy converters and projects. It is now developing megawatt-scale tidal energy projects in the United Kingdom and globally, however the company developed its roots in Australia.
In contrast to other Australia-based developers of marine energy technology, Atlantis has demonstrated relatively rapid progress over the past five years, culminating in its current position of being a developer with a full-scale tidal energy converter and a significant project pipeline worldwide.
The Atlantis story
In its ten years of development, Atlantis has made significant changes to its tidal energy converter. Atlantis originally developed the ‘Tin Can Man’, a 10 kilowatt (kW) tidal energy converter concept that involved a number of kite-shaped wings mounted on a continuous pulley system, that was tested in New South Wales’ Clarence River in 2002.Article continues below…
The Tin Can Man device evolved into the ‘Aquanator’, which harnessed the kinetic energy in the water using foils rather than kites, and used a track and trolley system instead of pulleys.
This design further evolved into ‘Nereus’, which retained the foils and introduced a caterpillar track to replace the track and trolley system. Aquanator and Nereus were both installed in San Remo on Victoria’s coast, where they generated energy from 2006 to 2011.
The development of ‘Solon’ in 2008 marked a complete shift in design, where a mono-directional ducted turbine with a rated power of 500 kW replaced the array of foils. This design evolved into the AK1000, a 1,000 kW unducted turbine with two opposing turbine rotors to accept the bi-directional tidal flows that was installed at EMEC, a full-scale marine energy test site in Orkney, Scotland, in 2010. Atlantis’ current AR1000 now uses a single rotor with a yaw mechanism to accept bidirectional flows.
The changes in Atlantis’ turbine designs have been matched by the changes in the company’s operations. Having started in Australia, Atlantis moved to Singapore, attracted by cost-effective and high quality research and development capabilities. Atlantis now also operates in the United Kingdom, and has installed its AK1000 and AR1000 turbines at EMEC in Scotland.
Atlantis received significant equity funding from financier Morgan Stanley and European renewable energy utility Statkraft. In 2010, it received a grant of approximately $3.26 million from the United Kingdom Carbon Trust’s Marine Renewables Proving Fund scheme.
This combined equity and grant funding has allowed Atlantis to pursue development of tidal energy projects in Canada, India, China and the United Kingdom, including at Scotland’s Pentland Firth.
Recently, The Energy Technologies Institute in the United Kingdom awarded approximately $4.9 million in development support under its Tidal Energy Converter System Demonstrator project to a consortium led by Atlantis. If successful in its first phase, the project will progress to a $15.5 million second phase where system and sub-system solutions will be developed towards commercial readiness and demonstrated in a realistic offshore environment. This shift in operations and funding has seen Atlantis’ Australian involvement reduce to nearly zero.
Implications for Australia
Although the potential future global market for marine energy is significant, the development of technologies and companies is reliant on long-term outlook finance and other funding support, in addition to the base renewable energy incentives such as the Australian carbon price and the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target.
Recent funding announcements by the Federal Government for the Carnegie Wave Energy device and by the Victorian Government for BioPower Systems' technology demonstrates positive support for these emerging technologies. The formation of the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in July 2012 will likely provide a hub of funding support in the future.
ARENA could look to the model developed by the United Kingdom’s Marine Renewables Proving Fund as a successful example of pragmatic and rational funding support to technologies and projects.
The Marine Renewables Proving Fund
In 2004, the United Kingdom Government’s Department of Trade and Industry created a $129 million Marine Renewables Development Fund (MRDF) to support the development of grid-connected multi-device wave or tidal-stream marine energy facilities.
However, the lack of suitable projects – which had to meet strict criteria, including having a full-size prototype proven in testing – resulted in no funding having been distributed by 2009.
Subsequently, the $39 million Marine Renewables Proving Fund was created to progress wave and tidal technologies to enable them to qualify for the MRDF.
The first step in this process was to identify, through a detailed selection and due diligence process, six technology developers – who, in February 2010, received grants to contribute to proving first commercial full-scale prototypes. The next stage of the process involved external reviews of contracted milestone deliverables plus technical support to help reduce risks and ensure the success of the projects.
All six full-scale prototypes are expected to have been installed and be generating by the end of 2012, a very significant success in an industry where technical delays are common.
While Australia’s situation is different to that in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, incentives that complement other incentive schemes around the world provide an opportunity for local companies to maximise the benefits to Australia from their emerging technologies and projects.
Atlantis’ development path highlights how the manner in which a prospective funding applicant manages the process of its innovation is as important as any particular innovation it has developed.