Marine Current Turbine’s to power 750,000 homes

‘Energy bonanza’ to power 750,000 homes

A Marine Current Turbine’s SeaGen tidal energy converter. Picture: PA

March 17 2010
By Jenny Fyall

SCOTLAND has taken a world-leading role in the emerging multi-billion-pound marine energy industry by approving ten projects with the potential to power almost a third of the country’s homes.

In the first initiative of its kind in the world, companies were granted leasing rights for schemes that could result in up to 1,000 wave and tidal energy devices being installed in the sea off the north of Scotland.

The leasing round attracted interest from global utilities firms that will invest an estimated £4 billion attempting to bring the 1.2-gigawatt schemes to fruition. If successful, the power of the sea in the Pentland Firth between Caithness and Orkney could provide electricity for 750,000 of Scotland’s 2.3 million homes by 2020.

First Minister Alex Salmond said Scotland could “rule the waves”, as he unveiled the seven winners of a fierce two-year competition for leases that attracted applications from 20 companies worldwide. It is estimated the projects could create as many as 5,000 jobs in Scotland.

Today, the UK government will unveil its latest energy strategy, which includes more funding to drive forward the low-carbon industry.

However, there were warnings that huge challenges remain before the marine energy sector, which is relatively unproven, can take off. And taxpayers will have to fork out an estimated £1bn to create new infrastructure, such as an upgraded electricity grid and overhauled ports.

The Pentland Firth is the first area of sea around the UK to be opened up for marine renewables. The seven winning companies, ranging from global utility giants to small Scottish renewables firms, were yesterday granted leasing rights for ten Pentland Firth sites by the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed.

Experts claimed the schemes would have four times the peak output of the former Dounreay nuclear power station, and a similar amount to an existing nuclear plant, such as Torness.

Mr Salmond told an audience at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh that Scotland had the potential to become the “powerhouse of Europe”, adding: “We can say in a real sense that Scotland rules the waves.”

He went on: “Leading international energy companies and innovators continue to be drawn to Scottish waters, which boast as much as a quarter of Europe’s tidal and offshore wind resource and a tenth of the continent’s potential wave capacity.”

Max Carcas, business development director at Leith company Pelamis, one of the winners, said Scotland had a genuine opportunity to play a leading role in the development of the emerging wave and tidal technology sector.

Whereas Scotland missed out to the likes of Denmark in building wind turbines – a global industry now worth £18bn – marine renewables could provide thousands of jobs and become an “export-led industry”, he said.

“We have a lot of challenges and it’s early days, but if we can deliver, the potential is huge,” he said.

He added that, whereas the British wind industry was dependent on foreign suppliers and the nuclear power sector used mainly French technology, this gave the opportunity for Scotland to become the leader in building, and eventually exporting, wave and tidal devices.

He went on: “This ticks the box environmentally. It ticks the box in terms of security of supply. There’s no risk of the price of the fuel doubling or tripling, because it’s free (from the wave or tides], and it also ticks the box of economics because it could create an export-led industry.”

At least four of the ten schemes will use devices designed and built by Scottish companies – Pelamis and Aquamarine Power, both based in Edinburgh.

Even companies such as utility giant Scottish Power Renewables, which plans to use a device designed in Norway for a 100-megawatt site at Ness of Duncansby, are likely to build the machines in Scotland, so they can easily be transported to the Pentland Firth. However, yesterday’s optimism came with warnings of huge challenges: from providing the necessary grid infrastructure to developing the expertise needed.

The investment needed for the ten projects would be, at about £4bn, similar to the cost of a new nuclear reactor. This will have to be funded entirely by the companies that won the ten leases, which also include Scottish and Southern Energy and E.on, bringing a likely cost to the consumer.

Already, the government’s Renewables Obligation scheme, which provides incentives for utilities to focus on renewables development over new conventional power, adds about £12 a year to consumers’ electricity bills.

Rob Hastings, director of the marine estate at the Crown Estate, said the schemes would show the world marine renewables could produce “meaningful” amounts of power. He added: “Nobody has attempted to do anything on this scale anywhere in the world.”

Mr Hastings told The Scotsman that ultimately the Pentland Firth could generate up to 10GW – almost ten times the potential amount from the schemes approved yesterday, and more than enough to power all the homes in Scotland.

Meanwhile, one of the fathers of wave power, Professor Stephen Salter from the University of Edinburgh, said the potential of the Pentland Firth had been hugely underestimated.

“That area could generate more than the whole of the UK’s needs,” he said. “We should be putting huge amounts of effort into developing renewables there. It could be enormous, but what will probably happen is we will screw it up in the same way we did with wind and it will all be done in China.

“We have got to get cracking now. If we had worked steadily from the Seventies, we could have got the wave thing working very well now, but we wasted an awful lot of time.”

Prof Salter called for more financial support from government and added: “All they have done is say, ‘Right, you can use your allotment, here’s your licence’. They are not giving them the money for it. We are not doing enough at the moment.

“The guys who are doing this are desperately short of money.”

‘Many hurdles must be crossed for this to work’

THE process of taking the ten wave and tidal projects destined for the Pentland Firth from the drawing board to reality is riddled with difficulties, experts have warned.

Installing up to 1,000 machines in the fierce waters off the north of Scotland, and then transporting the electricity to towns and cities many miles away, will require huge expertise, developments in infrastructure and billions of pounds of investment.

Even if 1.2 gigawatts of electricity was generated from the seas between Orkney and Caithness, there is currently no grid network to transport it to the mainland.

And once it got to shore, the existing electricity grid is so full that energy generators currently have to wait in a queue for up to a decade to get permission to connect.

The Beauly to Denny power line upgrade will provide greater capacity, but it has faced fierce opposition.

Installing huge devices, some the length of small trains, in the crashing waves of the Pentland Firth – infamous for its fierce tides – will require huge expertise.

And the marine renewables industry will be competing with the offshore wind industry for transportation vessels that are already in short supply.

Ports will have to be able to cope with increased activity, and shipping and fishing interests will need to be considered.

Then there is the as yet unknown impact on marine life of turbines turning under the waves, and the need to develop the expertise when renewables companies are already struggling to fill vacancies with adequately qualified employees.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, emphasised the need for the Beauly to Denny power line upgrade.

“Without the extra grid capacity to transport electricity to homes and businesses in the Central Belt, there would simply be no future for wave and tidal power in the north of Scotland, just a massive missed opportunity,” he said.


A RANGE of bizarre machines from “oysters” to “sea snakes” could be installed in the seas off Scotland within ten years.

They include a wave machine made by Edinburgh firm Pelamis. Resembling a 180-metre red snake writhing on the surface of the water, it is the length of five train carriages.

The Oyster, made by another Edinburgh firm, Aquamarine Power, is a mechanical hinged flap connected to the sea bed. Each passing wave moves the flap, driving hydraulic pistons to deliver high-pressure water via a pipeline to an onshore turbine.

The Hammerfest Strom tidal machine that will be used by Scottish Power Renewables resembles an underwater wind turbine, with three blades.


Marwick Head

Developer: ScottishPower Renewables

Size: 50 megawatts

Type: Wave project

Number of devices: 66

Type of device to be used: The P2 “sea snake” machine created by Edinburgh firm Pelamis Wave Power. Each is the length of about five train carriages and sits on the surface – like a sea snake

West Orkney South

Developer: E.on

Size: 50 megawatts

Type: Wave project

Number of devices: 66

Type of device: Pelamis’s P2 “sea snake” machine

Brough Head

Developer: Edinburgh firm Aquamarine Power, plus Scottish and Southern Energy

Size: 200 megawatts

Type: Wave project

Number of devices: 80

Type of device: Aquamarine Power’s Oyster 2. Each is 2.5MW and twice the length of a double-decker bus. Energy is captured from near-shore waves

Westray South

Developer: Scottish and Southern Energy

Size: 200 megawatts

Type: Tidal project

Number of devices required: up to 200

Type of device to be used: Not yet decided

West Orkney Middle South

Developer: Utility giant E.on

Size: 50 megawatts

Type: Wave project

Number of devices: Up to 50

Type of device to be used: Not yet decided

Costa Head

Developer: Utilities giant Scottish and Southern Energy

Size: 200 megawatts

Type: Wave project

Number of devices required: up to 200

Type of device to be used: Not yet decided

Ness of Duncansby

Developer: ScottishPower Renewables

Size: 100 megawatts

Type: Tidal project

Number of devices: Up to 95

Type of device to be used: HS1000 turbines developed by Norwegian firm Hammer-fest Strom. Already tested in Norway for five years, they look similar to underwater wind turbines, with three blades. They are 22m high


Developer: Edinburgh firm Pelamis Wave Power, operating as Ocean Power Delivery

Size: 50 megawatts

Type: Wave project

Number of devices: 66

Type of device to be used: Pelamis’s own P2 “sea snake” machine

Brough Ness

Developer: Bristol firm Marine Current Turbines

Size: 100 megawatts

Type: Tidal project

Number of devices: 66

Type of device to be used: Marine Current Turbine’s SeaGen. First deployed in Northern Ireland in 2008, it works like an underwater windmill. The rotors are driven by the power of the currents

Cantick Head

Developer: Dublin firm OpenHydro in conjunction with Scottish and Southern Energy

Size: 200 megawatts

Type: Tidal project

Number of devices: Up to 200

Type of device: OpenHydro’s Open-Centre tidal turbine. A turbine hidden out of site under the surface of the water, mounted on the seabed and designed to be installed in “farms”


Well if this works it certainly would be better then Nuclear Power Plants.

There will always be tides. If this works it would cause little to no pollution as well.


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Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 1:51 am  Comments Off on Marine Current Turbine’s to power 750,000 homes  
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