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Largest European Tidal Energy Project Moving Forward

The Scottish government approved an 86-MW tidal energy project, its energy minister announced today, which makes it the largest tidal stream energy project to be awarded consent in Europe.

It is located in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth off the north coast of Caithness. Developer MeyGen says it constitutes the first phase of a site that could eventually yield up to 398 MW.

MeyGen said it plans to build an initial 9-MW demonstration array of up to six turbines, with construction to begin in early 2014 and turbines to be commissioned in 2015. This initial array will provide environmental data for the subsequent phases and the wider tidal energy industry, the company said.

According to MeyGen, the Inner Sound has an excellent tidal resource, with maximum current speeds of up to five metres per second. The company said the site was selected for its good access to the grid and suitable water depth. Turbines will be supplied by Andritz Hydro Hammerfest and Atlantis Resources Corporation.

In an announcement before this week's Scottish Renewables Marine Energy Conference in Inverness, energy minister Fergus Ewing said, “Today, we have granted consent to MeyGen Limited to develop the largest tidal turbine array in Europe and the first commercial project off these shores. This is a major step forward for Scotland’s marine renewable energy industry.”

The Scottish government also announced today that wave energy companies Pelamis Wave Power and Aquamarine Power have each been awarded funds from a £13 million wave energy support programme, the Array Technology Innovation Programme, which aims to support enabling innovation projects for first and later marine arrays in order to encourage wave power development alongside tidal energy projects. The programme, part of Scotland’s £18 million Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), was established in May.

The remaining £5 million from the MRCF will be used to support the enabling technologies needed alongside the first wave and tidal arrays.

Ewing said, “The tide is also turning for the wave sector. Both wave and tidal technologies need support if we are to maintain our leading position in marine energy. The Scottish Government’s awards to Aquamarine Power Limited and Pelamis Wave Power will enable them to develop their technologies further so they can successfully deploy the first wave arrays."

Aquamarine Power CEO Martin McAdam said: “The industry continues to suffer from significant under-investment and this type of grant support is essential. I hope that this grant funding will encourage major Scottish and UK firms to see the potential of this industry and take an interest in its success through investment and partnership.”

Aquamarine Power's Oyster wave technology creates electricity from near-shore waves, which power a pump that pushes high-pressure water to drive an onshore hydroelectric turbine, the company says. Pelamis Wave Power's offshore wave energy converter operates in water depths greater than 50 metres and is typically installed 2-10 km from the coast, Pelamis says. The machine is rated at 750 kW.

The Carbon Trust has estimated that wave and tidal resources could provide 20 percent of the UK’s electricity if fully developed. Scotland is the UK ocean energy leader: marine developers are working on the coastlines around Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, the Outer Hebrides and Argyll, according to government development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  

The last Scottish tidal energy project to receive consent was in March 2011, when ScottishPower Renewables was granted permission to construct a 10-MW tidal array — the world's largest tidal power project at the time — in the Sound of Islay.

Lead image: Artist's impression of the Pentland Firth site, courtesy MeyGen

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