Our spirit of innovation led DCNS to enter marine renewable energies in 2008. Today we are the only manufacturer in the world working on 3 marine renewable energy technologies: tidal current energy, offshore floating wind turbines, and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC).
Developing marine renewable energies calls on many of the same skills as developing ships and submarines. We talk to Frederic Le Lidec, Director for Marine Energy, to understand how DCNS’ expertise in naval architecture and shipbuilding is a natural fit with marine renewable energies.
What is the potential of marine renewable energies?
“The potential of MRE is as big as the world’s oceans are vast. To begin with, the ocean produces energy in several different ways: tidal and wave power, offshore wind power and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). DCNS has decided to concentrate on three of these energies: tidal, offshore wind and ocean thermal.
“The potential of MRE is as big as the world’s oceans are vast.”
We estimate annual tidal power production at 100 gigawatts and wind to be 30 times that, for example. OTEC is an interesting case. It uses the difference in temperature between warmer surface water and cooler deep water to generate electricity using a steam turbine. It works best in tropical regions where the temperature difference between deep and shallow ocean waters is the greatest. We estimate there to be around 100 countries in the world for which OTEC is an economically feasible source of renewable energy.
Also, many of the world’s most densely populated cities and countries are located on the coast. This proximity to the energy source has definite economic benefits because it reduces the cost of energy transportation. Also, it creates jobs locally, because it makes more economic sense to build the structures locally rather than overseas.”
Why did DCNS decide to go into marine renewable energies?
“There is a natural fit between designing and building ships and marine renewable energy. For starters, there is the R&D and engineering, which requires deep knowledge of subjects like hydrodynamics, composite materials and corrosion resistance. To harness tidal energy, you have to know how to build big, highly efficient and robust turbines, which is basically the same thing as building propellers for nuclear submarines.
“There is a natural fit between designing and building ships and marine renewable energy.”
Then there is the sheer size of the structures. Our OpenHydro turbine is 26 meters high, the equivalent of a seven-story building. That’s where our shipbuilding experience comes into play. DCNS has the knowledge and yards big enough to handle these huge structures. Also, customers want a turnkey solution that comes installed and connected to their power grid—just like a ship that has to fit into an existing fleet. And they want a partner who can maintain their MRE infrastructure over its lifespan, which is what we do with our vessel maintenance services. So you see the connection between our core business and MRE is real.”
Does MRE help your core business?
“We are getting better and faster at serial manufacturing, which is good for all our products.”
“That’s an interesting question. It turns out that it does. I can give you three examples. One is fatigue resistance. We have developed new software tools to simulate fatigue resistance for marine energy structures. We’ve begun using these tools to stress-test vessels. Another example is in material sciences. MRE is driving work in polymers and energy storage materials. This, we think, will have applications in our ships and submarines. Finally, to be cost effective, MRE structures need to be built in series. We are getting better and faster at serial manufacturing, which is good for all our products.”