THE SCOTTISH government said yesterday it has given consent for work to begin on the largest tidal energy project in Europe in Pentland Firth, which separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland.
MeyGen, a joint venture between investment bank Morgan Stanley, utility International Power and tidal technology firm Atlantis Resources Corporation, will install the 86-megawatt (MW) tidal array in stages, starting with a nine MW demonstration project.
“When fully operational, the 86 megawatt array could generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 42,000 homes – around 40 per cent of homes in the Highlands,” said Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s energy minister, yesterday.
“This exciting development in the waters around Orkney is just the first phase for a site that could eventually yield up to 398 MW,” he added.
Due to the strength and speed of its tides, the firth was once called the “Saudi Arabia of tidal power” by Scotland’s first minster Alex Salmond.
But research in July showed the proposed tidal turbines in Pentland Firth would generate much less power than previously estimated.
The University of Oxford said the maximum that Pentland Firth could produce would be 1.9 gigawatts, with one GW a more realistic target – far below previous estimates of 10-20 GW.
The Scottish government also admitted that tidal power developers Aquamarine Power Limited and Pelamis Wave Power will share £13m of funding from the Scottish government’s so-called marine renewables commercialisation fund.
This will enable the firms to develop their technologies so they can successfully deploy the first wave arrays, it said.