At a presentation to engineers, Tim Cornelius, chief executive of renewable-energy firm SIMEC Atlantis Energy, said that if Jersey worked together with Guernsey and Alderney it could build a 500-turbine array which would allow electricity to be exported at the competitive price of £60 per megawatt.
He said that this would be a better price than islanders currently pay for power. However, that was disputed by Jersey Electricity boss Chris Ambler, who attended the talk and said it would be more expensive than Jersey’s current supply.
Mr Cornelius said that the Channel Islands and France were among the four best locations for harvesting tidal-stream energy in the world – alongside Canada, Scotland and South Korea.
The expert said the Channel Islands were in a unique position for exporting energy because of their access to both the UK and European electricity grids.
And he added that the islands have the added advantage of access to financial expertise and international connections to kickstart projects.
SIMEC Atlantis, which is based in Edinburgh, recently began work on a project to deliver undersea tidal turbines in the Alderney Race, which was backed by EU funding of 46m. euros.
Mr Cornelius said that if Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney really wanted to take advantage of their natural resources in this field they would need to think big and work together.
‘You have to do scale. If it’s small it won’t work. People who say tidal energy is expensive – well it is, if you have just one turbine,’ he said.
‘But if you have 50 it’s cheaper. And if you have 100, then it’s a whole lot cheaper. The most important point here is scale and price. No matter how good and green you are, or compelling your story is, people will look at one thing – the price.
‘If you put 500-ish turbines in the water you would be paying £60 per megawatt hour. The simple thesis is you have to go big or go home.’
He added that the possibilities for the Channel Islands and France were perhaps the best in the world because of their location and infrastructure, and it was ‘beyond belief’ so little had been done to exploit this.
‘You have to remember there are four places in the world that can realistically harvest commercial quantities of tidal power,’ he said.
‘Canada has a huge resource in Nova Scotia but has very little population and no industry, so you would have to connect it to the US grid in Maine.
‘South Korea has a huge resource but it’s again got a very stringy network. Scotland has the advantages of a wide resource and is close to a grid and is in close proximity to a government that’s willing to pay for it.
‘But in the Channel Islands and France you have the very, very unique opportunity of having two domestic markets very close to each other. You have the UK on one side and Europe on the other.
‘This is unparalleled and the fact that no one has really made great steps towards trying to exploit this, to me is really beyond belief.’
Mr Cornelius said that a CI project would involve the governments of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney working together to establish a 4.5km zone within their waters where an array could be built that would be the largest in the world.
He added that the underwater turbines had a standard lifespan of 25 years, offset the carbon emissions used to create them within 21 months and because of their slow cadence presented no threat to marine wildlife.
The presentation was organised by the Channel Island Group of Professional Engineers.
SIMEC Atlantis has worked on tidal-stream projects across the world, including in the Orkney Islands, which now export green energy.