The second innovative marine current turbine installation in a month has been given approval by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, on the same day - 31 March - that government support - the £42m Marine Renewable Deployment Fund (MRDF) - ended for this most promising renewable energy sector.
The project, in Ramsey Sound off Pembrokeshire, is a 1.2MW Deltastream device that will provide green electricity to the local distribution network during its 12 month test period. Managed by Tidal Energy Limited it has the potential to power up to 1,000 homes.
The project is backed by renewable energy investment firm Eco2. The pilot project involves installing three separate turbines connected and mounted on a 30m triangular frame for stability.
If the project successfully passes tests, a full array may follow in 2014.
"This is the first consented tidal stream project in Welsh waters and we are honoured to be at the forefront of the tidal energy industry in Wales," said Martin Murphy, managing director of Tidal Energy Ltd.
Wales hopes to deploy 4GW of wave and tidal devices by 2025. However, it will face constraints from existing stakeholders, according to the final report of the Marine Renewable Energy Strategic Framework (MRESF), launched by Welsh environment minister Jane Davidson last month. A target of 1.5GW of marine energy would mean fewer conflicts of interests with other claims on the seabed.
Davidson recently announced an agreement between the Welsh Assembly Government and The Crown Estate to work together to support marine energy manufacturing in Wales and to ensure the deployment of marine energy devices will not be delayed by infrastructure requirements.
The Carbon Trust estimates that we could meet up to 15% of our electricity needs from marine sources; trade body RenewableUK estimates this could potentially be up to 20%, and that we could install 2-3 GW of generation capacity by 2020, and up to 30 GW by 2050.
The DECC website observes that the UK currently leads the world in marine energy technologies. "Around our coastlines, we have the richest marine energy resource in Europe," it says.
Celebrating the announcement of the consent, energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne said, "We must make the most of our natural marine resource, not just to cut our emissions, but to boost energy security and create jobs. This is exactly the kind of innovative and exciting project I want to see more of."
More than 100 firms are now operating in this emerging industry. Leading companies include Ocean Power Technologies, Marine Current Turbines, Aquamarine Power and Pelamis.
At last month's wave and tidal energy industry trade conference in Edinburgh, members called for a better policy framework and more government support, under which the sector could create 20,000 direct jobs by 2020 and bring in annual revenues of ｣3.7bn.
The industry also pointed to the benefits of reduced grid-balancing costs resulting from this type of reliable renewable energy, the 42m tonnes of CO2 equivalent avoided each year by 2050, the potential to provide 20% of the UK's electricity from a secure domestic source, and the multi-billion-dollar export opportunities.
In this context RenewableUK's chief executive, Maria McCaffrey, wondered why the coalition ended the MRDF last month, while providing no indication on how it plans to support this promising emerging technology.
To campaign for more support amongst MPs the industry has launched the Seapower Campaign together with Greenpeace, WWF, the Green Alliance and Unite the Union.
I urge you to sign up to it.