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Tidal and Wave

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Wave energy is dependent on wave height, speed, length and the density of the water, whereas tidal energy is generated by the difference in surface height in a dammed estuary, a bay or a lagoon (tidal range) and the kinetic energy in the currents caused by the tides (tidal stream). [7]

Basic facts

  • State of the sector: Emerging but varies per technology
  • Presence across sea basins: Predominantly Atlantic, North Sea and East Mediterranean, due to available resources
  • Land-Sea interaction occurs through transmission infrastructure, maintenance traffic
  • No season variation. Once installed, present until decommissioned
  • Lifetime of installation is according to country-specific licensing process, usually 20-30 years.
  • Potential for positive and negative interactions, depending on the location. Likely exclusion of fishing and shipping around wave and tidal arrays.

Frequently asked questions [8]

Specific FAQs regarding this sector can be found at the bottom of the page. The following questions provide overall information on current spatial needs and anticipated future developments.

What are the present spatial needs of the Tidal and Wave Energy sector?

Wave and tidal projects are placement-driven and depend on the resource potential in a given location. Unlike wave energy, tidal resources are not widely distributed and are found in specific areas, limiting the geographical expansion of the tidal energy sector.

The primary locations of tidal stream resource in Europe include areas around Scotland and the Orkney Islands, off the coast of Northern Ireland, off the coast of Normandy and Brittany, between the Greek islands Korfu and Paxi and the Greek mainland, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark[1]. Key locations for wave energy resources are the Atlantic Ocean (United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France) and the North Sea (Denmark)[2]

Deployed tidal stream and wave capacity, capacity under construction and permitted capacity (MW) in Europe in June 2016

Deployed tidal stream and wave capacity, capacity under construction and permitted capacity (MW) in Europe in June 2016[3]

Which anticipated future developments of the industry are relevant to MSP?

Increased demand for space: The ocean energy sector as a whole foresees larger-scale projects of up to 50MW by 2020 in preparation for full commercialisation from 2025[4] with the ambition to provide 10% of Europe’s energy demand in the next 35 years[5].

Commercialisation of wave energy conversion technology: Could result in major spatial implications in areas where wave resource is present, both in terms of individual devices and commercial arrays[6].

Recommendations for MSP processes in support of the sector

  • MSP should be informed by accurate resource mapping to identify areas of interest for ocean energy development.
  • Wave and tidal energy needs to be considered separately given the different stages of development and sector requirements.
  • Co-operation between authorities responsible for MSP and offshore energy developments is essential to ensure that the changing spatial demands for wave and tidal energy are considered from the outset of planning processes.
  • MSP can support planning strategic electricity transmission. This includes promoting transnational initiatives, and setting policies for effective use of submarine cabling and onshore transmission between projects, and with other technologies such as offshore wind.
  • MSP provides an information base, reducing uncertainty around impacts and can reduce risk in consenting.

For more information

Please visit the long-version of the sector fiche which includes further detailed information, resources and references.


[1] Ecorys and Fraunhofer. (2017). Lessons Learnt on Ocean Energy Development.…

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ocean Energy Forum. (2016). Ocean Energy Strategic Roadmap Building Ocean Energy for Europe.…

[4] Ocean Energy Association. (2013). Industry Vision Paper.

[5] Ocean Energy Europe. (2017). Ocean energy project spotlight– investing in tidal and wave energy.

[6] Ocean Energy Forum. (2016). Ocean Energy Strategic Roadmap Building Ocean Energy for Europe.…

[7] Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DGMARE). (2015). Energy sectors and the implementation of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive.…

[8] ...................

Frequently Asked Questions