NBCC welcomes Tidetec as one of its latest members. We were lucky to spend some time with CEO Arne Kollandsrud, who chatted about his company Tidetec, their groundbreaking technology, and his vision for renewable energy in the UK. 

Can you give us a brief introduction to yourself and your company (who you are, what are you doing, etc)?  I am the CEO of Tidetec, and I live in Oslo with my wife Katherine and our youngest daughter. Our two older children, a son and a daughter, also live and work in the city.  

Tidetec was founded by my father Per Kollandsrund in 2000, when he initially developed and patented the unique turning turbine technology. I grew up making all kinds of prototypes with him, and this gave me both the technical insight and the inspiration I needed when I joined the company in 2013. I was then working as a full-time musician, although if I hadn’t studied music, I would certainly have been an engineer. As it was, I took some courses in entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Trondheim, co-authored a book on innovation, and the rest is history. 

Our technology? To paraphrase Victor Hugo – “Nothing else in the world…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come”. The primary sources of renewable energy are currently wind and solar, but what can be done when the wind is not blowing, and the sun isn’t shining?  

Tidal range provides predictable and clean energy that is low-cost, low-noise, and has little visual impact. While conventional turbines waste energy in reverse mode, Tidetec’s bi-directional turbines, which always face the right direction of flow and have high pumping efficiency, give up to 30% increased power generation. At this stage, we’re examining a range of projects where our technology would be applicable, and our focus now is Tidal-in-a-box, utilising existing infrastructure and targeting smaller projects such as unused dry docks, tidal pools, and port basins.  

Currently, we are approaching investors for funding. We have patented technology, are approaching our first commercial projects, are in dialogue with several ports, and already have a letter of intent. We are well positioned for the UK market. 

Your connection to NBCC?  We’re part of Energy.invented, a Norwegian platform for energy innovation and collaboration, part of Energy Valley. I was invited to the ‘Energetic Future – Britain & Norway’ conference in November last year, and although I couldn’t attend, I met with Kyrre and we had a very constructive discussion. NBCC is a good way to connect with port owners, and as we are located in Oslo it’s important to have someone who is in the right place to help us navigate the UK market. NBCC is a way for us to get ‘known’. We have also had help from the UK embassy in Oslo.  

Kyrre has already connected me with the Port of Tyne, but it’s not only about approaching port owners and investors; it’s also about being able to attend interesting conferences and workshops and getting to know others with similar aims and aspirations. 

What is the potential in the UK for this type of technology, and where do you think trade/cooperation between Norway and UK will be in 10 years’ time? Consider that the nine most prominent planned projects (large tidal projects), could potentially deliver 12 – 15% of the UK’s energy needs, and it’s a clean and affordable source. If you place them along the West coast they would also be generating in sequence, making for continual, baseload production.  

In my view there is huge potential in the UK for tidal range power because the country has a natural high tidal range in shallow waters, which makes it ideal for tidal lagoons and barriers. Our turbine solution is also ideal for low-head marine pumped hydro, especially in locations with lower tidal range. If you begin developing this now, it will naturally lead to more energy storage capacity – it’s a really great opportunity for the UK.  

Look at the industrial revolution, when the UK had the advantage of rivers for transportation, waterwheel power production, and – together with canals – as a transport system for coal and other goods. Factories and industries were developed, and it all grew from there. Now there is the same prospect for the growth and development of renewable energy, using the country’s natural advantages to produce green, affordable energy, increasing grid flexibility, and finally energy storage. 

With intermittent energy supply (wind and solar) one of the biggest challenges, and the growing need for flood protection, tidal lagoons and tidal barriers can become a pivotal part of the UK’s energy generation. Tidetec is not, however, waiting for a large tidal lagoon project. We can start immediately with tidal small-range installations using our Tidal-in-a-box module. 

I foresee a situation in the future where Norwegian technology will be invested in large infrastructure projects such as the Mersea tidal project which has the potential to generate power for up to a million homes. We are also in touch with some of the UK’s major ports to see if we can help them save money on their pumping costs. 

Do you have views on the importance of technology, insight, ingenuity, and talent, as we aim to make a better future for everyone? I am a typical techno-optimist. We can’t solve everything with technology, but technology opens possibilities that expand our way of thinking, and each new development paves the way for more innovation. It’s a circular thing, for example, look at the way that chatbots are working now. They will probably have a totally different use in the future. 

Our own technology was developed initially for the tidal range / tidal lagoon market, then we discovered it would also be good for low-head marine pumped hydro. Energy storage is possibly an even more important market than the tidal range market. Equally important however is the need for open-mindedness, in terms of technology, potential climate solutions, and also business models, ideas, and new inputs. Engineers and business developers should be more closely connected. 

There is a musical analogy here. I am also a professional trumpet player, and I like to improvise when I’m playing. I like to improvise when I’m working with technology too because to get to the ‘Eureka’ moments you must improvise and get out of balance. As Miles Davis said, “If you miss a note, make sure you miss it two or three times more because then something really interesting can happen”.  

It’s all about taking chances. You can’t play it safe all the time. And this is why it’s exciting to be a start-up company. It’s easier to be innovative, although the lack of money is a major inhibiting factor. Larger companies have the funds, but they are, to a large extent, constrained by shareholders and the need to conserve and also make money. It’s a delicate balance.