All eyes on Scotland as world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm is launched on the Cromarty Firth

All eyes on Scotland as world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm is launched on the Cromarty Firth
The National, by Kirsteen Paterson


It towers 49ft tall, weighs almost 200 tonnes and could mark the moment the tide turns for marine renewables, is is claimed.


The world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm was launched on Scotland’s coast yesterday.


The initial turbine for the MeyGen tidal stream project was unveiled at Nigg Energy Park on the Cromarty Firth, a former production centre for the oil and gas sector.


The massive structure, which will be installed in the Pentland Firth between Caithness and Orkney, has blades measuring 52 feet in diameter and developer Atlantis Resources eventually plans to add 268 others to create enough capacity to power 175,000 homes.


Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of industry body Renewables UK, hailed the development, saying: “New technology like this will be powering our nation for decades to come.”


Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged Westminster to honour a commitment to provide assurances for marine energy in its renewables support scheme or risk “irreparable damage” to the sector.


However, Tim Cornelius, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Atlantis Resources, said the launch was a “significant moment” for the green energy sector the world over.


He said: “Today marks a historic milestone not just for Atlantis and our project partners, but for the entire global tidal power industry.


“It gives me enormous pride to have reached this juncture after 10 years of tireless work, preparation and planning by everyone associated with this project.


“This is the day the tidal power industry announced itself as the most exciting new asset class of renewable, sustainable generation in the UK’s future energy mix.


“This is an industry that is creating jobs and Scotland is the undisputed world leader of this high-growth sector.”


Cornelius went on: “The fact that the first turbine was assembled at what was an oil and gas fabrication yard illustrates the opportunities offered by renewables.


“The official launch of the largest tidal stream energy project in the world marks a significant moment in the commercial development of marine power.


“It clearly demonstrates the economic opportunities being created in the UK, which other countries are eyeing enviously – Britain is driving innovation, attracting investment and creating jobs.”


The initial phase of the project will see four turbines sunk underwater, creating a combined capacity of six megawatts. Once all 269 are in, this will rise to 398MW.


The scheme has received £23 million of Scottish Government funding and Sturgeon said this was providing local jobs, adding: “There is no doubt that the eyes of the world are on this project.


“It is absolutely vital that the UK Government honours its earlier commitment to provide a ring-fenced allocation for marine energy in its renewables support scheme.


“They must tackle the current uncertainty that exists before they cause irreparable damage to the long-term prospects for the sector.”


Jenny Hogan of industry body Scottish Renewables said the launch was part of a wave of “innovation” in design, testing and deployment, adding: “Our waters have the lion’s share of the UK’s tidal stream resources, so it makes perfect sense that we utilise that advantage by installing devices like those developed by Atlantis.


“In recent weeks we’ve seen Edinburgh-based Nova Innovation ‘switch on’ its second turbine at Bluemull Sound off Shetland and, in Orkney, Scotrenewables announced it had begun testing its SR2000 device at the European Marine Energy Centre.


“This kind of activity has led to the marine energy sector investing well over £200 million in the Scottish economy – with every £1 from public sector funds leveraging £7 from the private sector – and creating around 1,000 jobs in Scotland, with the potential to grow substantially.


“However, this is still an incredibly young technology, and future development is absolutely dependent on continued support from Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels, who have all played a vitally important part in the growth of the sector to date.”


The launch came on the eve of a major conference in Inverness today. The Scottish Renewables marine conference will take in research and delivery, also exploring the “competitive advantage” held by wave energy producers against other parts of the industry.


It will also focus on commercialisation, technical advances and was preceded last night by a dinner at which Business, Innovation and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse was a keynote speaker.