Riding on the wings of tidal power

HydroWing is designed to be a cost-effective and scalable solution to tidal stream energy generation
HydroWing is designed to be a cost-effective and scalable solution to tidal stream energy generation

In this Q&A article Richard Parkinson, CEO of Inyanga Marine Energy Group, talks to Ed Hill about its development of HydroWing tidal stream power and the opportunities it offers the UK supply chain.

Q) Firstly, can you give us some background about Inyanga Marine Energy and HydroWing, its history, markets, capabilities etc.?

Inyanga Marine Energy Group is an innovative company which is developing cutting edge solutions for the global offshore renewables industry. The Group operates with a highly experienced and specialised team of 20 offshore engineers from our head office in Falmouth. The company also has offices in Rennes, France and Anglesey, Wales.

The Group has two divisions – HydroWing – which focuses on tidal energy technology development, and Inyanga Maritime, which delivers offshore engineering and installation. The company aims to advance through to deployment the innovative tidal energy converter, HydroWing, to provide cost-effective, reliable and predictable power to communities around the globe.

HydroWing was the largest tidal stream project in Wales to be successful in the UK government’s latest Contracts for Difference round. A 10-megawatt (MW) project will be located at the Morlais tidal energy site in Anglesey. It has also been awarded the EPC contract for the first tidal energy plant in Southeast Asia, at the remote off-grid island of Capul in the Philippines, set to deploy in late 2025.

3.	HydroWing will use next generation Tocardo turbines following an eight-year demonstration in the Netherlands
HydroWing will use next generation Tocardo turbines following an eight-year demonstration in the Netherlands

Q) At what stage is the tidal stream energy market currently in the UK and globally? Is it an attractive prospect for companies wanting to get involved?

The UK has one of the biggest tidal energy resources in the world and the UK Government is fully committed to tidal energy. To date, the sector has been in a stage of technology development. However, it is now moving towards a commercialisation stage and the prospects for future growth are excellent.

The Inyanga Marine Energy Group has unique experience in this field, having installed 60% of all UK and EU tidal energy devices to date.

Q) What are the benefits of tidal stream power generation compared to its wind and solar counterparts? What part could it play in the national and global energy generation framework?

Tidal Energy has the potential to provide 11% of the UK’s domestic energy needs, which is highly significant. Furthermore, the tides are totally predictable decades into the future. In contrast, wind and solar are variable – there are days when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Tidal can therefore play a very important role in the UK’s overall energy mix, by providing a totally predictable base load of clean, affordable energy.

Q) What advances does HydroWing particularly bring to the market? Can you explain the technology.

Commercialisation of the tidal energy sector has so far been held back by high operation and maintenance costs. Our next generation technology meets those challenges head on.

HydroWing is designed to be a cost-effective and scalable solution to tidal stream energy generation. A supporting structure sits on the seabed under its own weight. The ‘Wings’ which hold the turbines are then lowered into position onto this structure. This makes HydroWing very straightforward to deploy. The turbines are bi-directional, so they generate power as the tide comes in and as it goes out. These turbines are also cost-effective to produce at scale.

The key advantages of HydroWing are:

  • Efficient, reliable and proven turbines
  • Game changing, patented passive pitch bi-directional blade, increasing yield by 60%
  • Low-cost operation and maintenance, using a unique quad hull barge
  • No need for specialist offshore vessels
  • The compact nature of the device allows low-cost logistics and handling – using standard ISO containers
  • A fatigue resistant substructure
  • Lean manufacturing with economies of scale based on low-cost components
  • Minimal environmental impact – zero visual impact, zero fish/marine mammal mortality
4.	Hydro Wing’s Quad Hull Barge will significantly reduce installation, maintenance and downtime recovery costs
Hydro Wing’s Quad Hull Barge will significantly reduce installation, maintenance and downtime recovery costs

Q) Tell you tell us more about your turbine technology?

Our turbines are made by Tocardo; leaders in this field. Since 2020, Tocardo has been a joint venture of HydroWing and QED Naval, who agreed to work together to develop this type of turbine technology to the next level because we could see its huge potential.

In October 2023, after eight years in operation, Tocardo successfully completed the demonstration of a 1.25MW five turbine tidal array at Eastern Scheldt in the Netherlands. While it was in operation, the Eastern Scheldt Tidal Project represented more than 50% of the EU’s operational tidal capacity and contributed to over 30% of the EU’s total tidal power generation before its finalisation.

This was the world’s longest operational tidal array, a vitally important demonstration which has proved the operational performance and reliability of the Tocardo T-2 turbines. The demonstration took the Tocardo turbines to technology readiness level 9, i.e. commercial readiness.

The valuable insights that we have gained are now feeding into the development of our next generation T-3 turbines. This will also give great confidence to our stakeholders and potential investors. We are very excited about the prospect of Tocardo’s new T-3 model which will integrate key blade and control innovations to provide 50% improvements in yield.

Q) What stage has the HydroWing project reached?

We are gearing up for deployment of our next generation tidal energy technology, following the recent announcement that HydroWing has been awarded a contract for a 10MW tidal stream energy project in Wales as part of the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme.

This groundbreaking project will launch HydroWing’s patented technology at utility scale. The project will be located at the Morlais tidal energy site in Anglesey, which is managed by the social enterprise Menter Môn. The Morlais site is the UK’s largest consented tidal energy scheme. It will be a major milestone in our quest to become the largest provider of tidal arrays in the world.

We have started intensive work on delivering the project, including engaging with local stakeholders and supply chain companies while also opening a new office in Anglesey. A comprehensive research project has already been conducted in partnership with Bangor University to assess the velocity of the local tide currents. The outputs from this have been very encouraging in informing expectations on the yield characteristics of the site.

The HydroWing technology to be used for the Morlais project will incorporate the next generation Tocardo T-3 turbines. We have been working on the development of a Passive Pitch Mechanism which integrates with the Tocardo Bi-Blade system allowing the blade dimensions to be increased, while shedding pitch at higher loads. This is similar to an active pitching mechanism but without compromising the reliability for which the Tocardo Turbines are well known. This increases the yield by 50-60% and makes projects in lower flow locations more feasible and investible.

We are moving swiftly to a demonstration of our latest technology in late 2024 which will lead on to deployment of a full-scale array at Morlais by 2027 – at which point we will begin supplying power to the national grid.

6.	The ‘Wings’ with the turbines are lowered onto the seabed structure
The ‘Wings’ with the turbines are lowered onto the seabed structure

Q) What are the opportunities for UK companies being part of the supply chain? Are there crossover prospects for companies involved in the oil and gas or nuclear sectors?

There are strong opportunities for the UK supply chain. A typical offshore windfarm will have around 12% of its total capital expenditure spend in the UK. In contrast, the UK capital expenditure percentage for tidal arrays could be as high as 85%. We have designed HydroWing so that is based on readily available components and lean manufacturing processes. So, as the sector develops, the UK supply chain will be heavily involved.

Q) Does the UK have a chance to be a leader in this field? Is the Government doing enough to promote the opportunities and help develop the innovations required? Is there any difficulty in finding labour and skills?

The UK is definitely one of the leaders in this field and that creates great opportunities for our manufacturers and suppliers. The UK Government is supporting this work due to the important role it could play in our energy security. We do not have any particular difficulty in finding the companies and people to supply us – given the strong marine supply chain and the UK’s good track record in renewables – so the prospects are really good.

To put the opportunity in context, Ocean Energy Europe have estimated that, by 2050, the worldwide capacity of tidal power could reach 500-gigawatts, which would mean a global market worth €53 billion annually.

Q) What further technological developments do you foresee that could help expand this market?

As the Morlais project develops, we will gain more and more experience on operating our technology at scale and ways in which we can enhance its performance. This will feed into further product improvements and optimisation, enabling us to continue to build our business around the world. Our vision is to become the world leader in tidal array technology.

Inyanga Marine Energy


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