Tidal Energy in Scotland - “The Crown Jewel of The Pentland Firth”
Construction will soon begin on what is to be the largest tidal turbine energy project in Europe, following the Scottish government’s official approval of the concept and construction plans. The tidal stream project let by MeyGen Ltd. is at the forefront of world tidal energy development and will harvest the tidal resource from the strong tidal streams present along the Pentland Firth in an area that lies in the channel between the island of Stroma (part of the Orkney chain of islands) and the northeasterly tip of the Scottish mainland, encompassing almost 3.5km2 of fast flowing water.
MeyGen’s goal is to deliver a fully operational, 398MW renewable energy plant powered purely by the tide, generating the equivalent electricity to power around 40,000 Scottish homes by 2020. Scottish-registered company MeyGen is a joint venture between investment bank Morgan Stanley, independent power generator International Power and tidal technology provider Atlantis Resources Corporation. MeyGen Ltd., the development company and project sponsor, has secured an agreement for lease of the area from The Crown Estate. MeyGen is to install the tidal array in stages in the Pentland Firth.
It will begin with a 9MW demonstration project of up to six turbines, with construction expected to take place on a phased basis until 2020. MeyGen hopes a second phase would eventually see up to 400 submerged turbines at the site, generating some 398MW. Its AR1000 turbine is considered to be the world's most powerful single-rotor tidal device. Each of the devices, which stand 22.5 meters (73ft) tall, weigh 1,500 tons and have a rotor diameter of 18 meters (59ft), could generate up to 1MW of power.
The harsh environment and extreme weather conditions at the chosen location make building, deploying and maintaining a fleet of tidal machines a treacherous challenge, yet MeyGen believes it is up to the challenge. This pioneer project is of great importance, as its success should help showcase the potential of tidal energy production worldwide. There are innumerable locations all over the globe where this technology could be implemented to provide clean energy to power cities and industries alike. Although anywhere with potential for tidal energy harvesting would face the some of the same challenges, some environments would undoubtedly be harsher than others and any location would need to have strong tidal variations as a pre-requisite for such a development to become commercially viable. Infrastructure at sea and ashore to support the development would also be mandatory as power cables would need to be placed on the seabed, along with a power distribution station ashore.
*All images courtesy of MeyGen Ltd.
Pentland Firth Bathymetry