Tidal power company moves to the next level

Atlantis Resources acquires Current Resources from Morgan Stanley as it prepares to become the first tidal power developer to set up subsea turbine farms.
Atlantis Resources, a developer and manufacturer of electricity-generating tidal current turbines, has moved a step closer to a commercial-scale deployment of its technology with the acquisition of Current Resources, an energy origination and project development business owned by Morgan Stanley.

The origination business, which focuses primarily on tidal current energy, was acquired through an all-share deal that will make Morgan Stanley the largest shareholder of Atlantis. The exact stake was not disclosed, but is below 50%. Morgan Stanley will get two out of four board seats, however, (a fifth independent director will be appointed in the future) which suggests it will have a substantial minority stake. Before this deal, Atlantis was owned by a small group of private shareholders, consisting mostly of sophisticated high-net-worth individuals and the existing senior management.

Singapore-headquartered Atlantis has had a pre-existing relationship with Morgan Stanley and Current Resources has been active in the market looking at different ways of structuring projects in order to obtain permits that will enable AtlantisÆs technology to be deployed on a commercial scale. Morgan Stanley says its investment to date has been ôlargely responsibleö for allowing Atlantis to bring its technology to the commercialisation stage. Neither company was willing to comment on how much Atlantis paid for Current Resources.

ôBy combining these two businesses you effectively get the cutting edge R&D capability of Atlantis, together with the hard-core commercial project origination focus that comes from the Morgan Stanley side which will allow us to deliver on projects,ö says Timothy Cornelius, CEO of Atlantis and a sub-sea engineering specialist.

ôWe want to become an end-to-end supplier of tidal current generation technology that is able to provide the turbines, to project manage the installation, and then maintain the field on behalf of our customers, right through the life of the project,ö Cornelius tells FinanceAsia in a phone interview.

Power generation using tidal currents is the latest renewable energy source to emerge as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. The technology has yet to be deployed commercially, but the unparalleled predictability of the movement and intensity of tides suggests it has clear advantages for the power industry, versus some of the other renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power.

According to an Atlantis press release, ocean power, which includes tidal current power, wave power and ocean thermal energy conversion, represents a vast source of energy estimated at between 2,000 and 4,000 terawatt hours per year. The US and the UK combined have sufficient ocean power potential to meet around 15% of their power needs.

Having spent 10 years developing its turbines, Cornelius says Atlantis is now ready to become the first tidal power developer to establish mini-arrays (essentially farms or fields of multiple subsea turbines of 1 or 2 megawatts each). This will allow it to aggregate the necessary data about environmental and turbine performance before it moves on to apply for permits for projects of a much more significant scale.

ôWe are entering into an exciting phase where we will focus on the necessary steps to build up to meaningful commercial quantities of tidal generation projects,ö he says. ôThe first step will be to deploy lots of between 5 and 10 turbines to allow governments and the regulators to get comfortable with the technology and the performance before we apply to scale-up. We hope to start deploying turbines by June next year, and building up to 2011 when we plan to enter the commercial side of deployment with projects that have a capacity of 150-500MW.ö

These commercial projects should see the company turn cash flow positive in 2011, he adds.

The company has had a 150KW turbine installed and connected to the grid in Australia since 2006 and is hoping to build up its generation capacity there, but it is also actively looking for several other sites both in Asia and Europe where it can set up trail arrays. It is currently evaluating potential installation opportunities in the Pentland Firth off Northern Scotland, in the Bay of Fundy and in British Columbia off the east and west costs of North America and off the coast of South Korea.

China also has the potential to become a ôhugeö market, according to Cornelius, since the companyÆs Nereus turbine that is suitable for shallow-water can be deployed not just in tidal oceans, but in rivers too û and that is a resource that China has a plenty of. Atlantis also has a second type of turbine, the Solon, which is a deep-water turbine that can be installed in some of the fastest flowing currents in the world.

ôChina will be a key market. South Korea has some of the best tidal resources in the world, Japan has tidal resources as well and the Philippines has fantastic tidal flow. So, Asia is a hugely exciting place for us, because there is so much resource and so much need for clean power.ö
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