Big Tidal Comes to Scotland

Offshore tidal power has been bubbling under, quite literally, in recent years. With a new installation planned off the coast of Anglesey in North Wales, the UK is fast becoming one of the leading forces in underwater power.

With vast resources surrounding our small island, it makes sense that we should be finding ways to harness this opportunity. While it hasn’t been easy – after all building power plants under the sea is a pretty complicated costly  process – we could, in the next few years find more of our power coming from tidal.

The biggest place of interest at the moment is around the Shetland Islands where Edinburgh based Nova Innovations Ltd have installed a tidal system they hope is going to provide power to the local area. 5 underwater turbines capable of produce 100 kW each are due to come into operation shortly, two already have. Situated between the islands of Unst and Yell, the turbines will take advantage of the powerful tides around the Shetland area.

According to the company:

“Phase 1 of the array consists of three 100 kW Nova M100 turbines, with more turbines planned in following phases. With the help of Scottish Enterprise, Nova Innovation has delivered a project with over 80% Scottish supply chain content, and over 25% of expenditure in Shetland alone.”

It’s good news for the Shetlands which aren’t currently connected to the National Grid because of their remoteness. Up till now, the local community have got most of their power from a diesel powered plant and there has certainly been some resistance to renewable energy in the past. Plans to take advantage of the area’s strong wind resources by building turbines was stopped by local objections. While the construction of a wind farm on the main island has now got legal approval, construction has not yet begun and the locals are still not happy.

The UK is not the only European country exploring the possibility of tidal power. A new project off the coast of Brittany is well under way and, according to many experts, there is enough power in the world’s seas to produce a staggering 1 terawatt of energy (the equivalent of 1,000 GWh). Major projects have been few and far between though. The construction of a tidal lagoon in Swansea got many green activists excited but suffered from the uncertainty of the market over the last 18 months and has been hopelessly stalled by the withdrawal of investment. In the meantime, the success of the Nova Innovations project, as well as that in Anglesey, could well determine whether the UK starts to take a bigger lead in tidal energy production in the future.

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