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Frontiers Magazine

Highlighting Orkney’s tidal power potential

Mary Leonard August 2, 2016 NEWS

Tidal power is a major opportunity for Orkney, with scope for substantial electricity export and construction work as well.

This will be highlighted by Prof. Clive Greated of the University of Edinburgh in an event in this year’s Orkney International Science Festival.

Lying between two massive tidal systems, the islands are almost uniquely endowed with tidal stream energy resources,” he says. “It’s estimated that the Pentland Firth alone is capable of producing about half of all Scotland’s electricity needs. Potentially Orkney could be a massive exporter of electricity produced from marine resources.”

A world leader

Prof. Greated says that a further strength for Orkney tidal power development is the quality of the people working in the field.

The world’s largest tidal turbine was designed by a team of engineers working in Orkney. Electrical assembly work was also carried out in Orkney, with final assembly at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard in Belfast.

“In the longer term the industry may be able to bring even further skilled employment and supply chain opportunities in construction and operations as it moves towards full commercialisation.”

Turbine trials

The new 550-tonne tidal turbine, the SR2000, is currently undergoing tow trials with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). Some further cable installation work will be carried out before connecting it up for grid trials at the Falls of Warness towards the end of summer.

The company who have developed it, Scotrenewables, are already working on a new Mark 2 version of the design, with the support of a 10 million euro grant from the EU’s largest research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

The aim of the Mark 2 development is to push forward the commercialisation of floating tidal energy technology, demonstrating that it is possible to produce low-cost, high-value energy from the tides. The company are aiming for it to be completed and in operation by the end of 2018.

Scotrenewables’ business development manager James Murray says that Orkney possesses a great wealth of renewable resources – wind, tidal and wave – and is already self-sufficient in producing electricity from these resources, the only constraints being with exporting it.

The big question is where the investment is going to come from for upgraded grid connections to allow this to happen.”

Inspiring and nurturing

He highlights the importance of the role of Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) in Stromness

Much of the innovation in this field has been inspired and nurtured by ICIT. It’s important not only in terms of human resources but also the research it conducts.

“Every summer we take on interns who have often stayed and become valuable members of staff and the students themselves benefit from valuable industry experience.”

Film clips of the launch of the Scotrenewables tidal turbine were shown by Prof. Clive Greated in his talk on tidal power in the 2016 Science Festival. The evening before, news of the latest developments in marine renewable energy devices in Orkney waters was given by EMEC’s managing director, Neil Kermode. He also gave an update on the progress of the ground-breaking hydrogen project aimed at opening up new applications in transport and elsewhere for Orkney’s expanding renewable energy output.

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About The Author

Mary Leonard

Mary Leonard is a journalist who started work with The Orcadian before emigrating to Australia, where she lived and worked for almost 20 years. Although not a scientist, she has always had a keen interest in science, philosophy, spirituality, in fact in almost everything, which she hopes gives her an open-minded approach to any subject.