The long-suffering UK tidal power industry was awarded break-through first wins in the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction announced today (Wednesday), with the Orbital Marine Eday 1 & 2, Morlais Magallanes and Meygen Phase 2 projects all coming away with deals.

A pair of contracts went to Orbital’s 7.2MW multi-turbine Eday development in Orkney, Scotland, one to the 5.6MW Morlais Magallanes project off Wales, and another to the operational Meygen array off Scotland – delivering power to grid since 2016 but now able to expand by 28MW with a second phase.

A total of 41MW of tidal will be brought online off Britain through the CfD round, at a strike price of £178.54/MWh ($213.82/MWh).

The £20m commitment for the sector coming via the CfDs means the UK joins Canada and France in providing revenue support to tidal.

“By awarding contracts to three projects, the government also ensures healthy competition and large-scale growth potential across several tidal technologies,” said sector advocacy body Ocean Energy Europe (OEE), in a statement. “For the tidal industry’s progress to be sustained, it is vital that the UK government creates long-term visibility by continuing to include ringfenced allowances in future allocation rounds.

OEE chief Remi Gruet said: “Today’s announcement is the first step in turning a 20GW resource into a large-scale power source. Tidal energy can now take its rightful place in the UK’s mainstream electricity supply.

“It is time for the EU to follow suit by actioning the commitments made in its offshore renewables strategy. Europe has long been the global leader in developing and deploying renewable energy – by dragging its heels on the strategy, the EU now risks being left behind.”

Sue Barr, chair of the UK Marine Energy Council, added: “Tidal stream is forecast to be cheaper than new nuclear at the point of 1GW of deployment, supports the UK creating sustainable jobs and supply chains in coastal communities and beyond, while boosting energy security through an entirely predictable baseload-style renewable energy resource.”

Scottish Renewables CEO Mack stated: “While the prices achieved in this most recent auction are an incredible milestone, it must be remembered that tidal energy is still in a developmental phase and most developers will be unable to bid so low in future.

“We would therefore urge the UK government to confirm that its plans for future auction rounds include a dedicated, ring-fenced budget for tidal stream projects and also to commit to reforming the CfD mechanism to allow UK supply chain companies to be more competitive.”

Tidal power has struggled to move forward since early prototypes hit the water in the last decade, but the advances in the sector, including switch-on Orbital’s 2MW O2 unit off Scotland last year and, most recently, first power from Sustainable Marine’s flagship device in Canada's Bay of Fundy, have struck a light for progress toward in commercialisation.