Permission’s been granted for the largest tidal energy project in Europe to get under way. The first stage will be constructed in the Pentland Firth, starting with a demonstration project of six turbines in the waters between Orkney and the Scottish mainland. The Carbon Trust has estimated that wave and tidal resources could provide 20% of the UK’s electricity if fully developed.
According to Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, “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. When fully operational, the 86 megawatt array could generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 42,000 homes – around 40% of homes in the Highlands. This exciting development in the waters around Orkney is just the first phase for a site that could eventually yield up to 398 megawatts.”
Speaking before the Scottish Renewables Marine Conference, Mr Ewing claimed that the tide was turning for the wave sector. He confirmed that Aquamarine Power Limited and Pelamis Wave Power are to share a slice of a £13 million wave “first array” support programme, part of the Scottish Government’s Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund. “We must tackle climate change,” he said. “We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through better and more efficient uses of energy. Marine energy – a home-grown technology with huge potential – is part of the solution,” he said.
The announcement comes shortly after the UK Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, confirmed that wind farm developers would be given a cash incentive to build more turbines on Scottish islands. He said there would be a higher subsidy for projects in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles than on the mainland, all of which would help unlock the “massive potential” of the islands.
However, Mr Ewing stressed that Mr Davey had specifically mentioned Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles in his speech. “It is therefore incumbent upon him,” he said, “to find a solution that benefits all of our island communities, and the Scottish Government will hold him to account to ensure that is delivered.”
But he added: “I also find the timing of this announcement surprising given the UK and Scottish governments have not concluded discussions over the detail of the proposals. We will continue to engage with the UK Government on this issue to ensure we get the correct incentive to release the huge potential for electricity generation from the islands.”