By a Newsnet reporter
A renewable power project described as one of the biggest in the world is set to begin later this year after it secured £50m of funding, £20.5 million of which is from the Scottish Government.
Construction on the tidal power project will begin in the Pentland Firth later this year, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has announced.
Once completed, the 269-turbine development could power almost 175,000 homes and support more than 100 jobs in the north of Scotland.
The £20.5 million investment is made possible by the Scottish Government’s Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF) and funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It is part of a total package of £51 million to MeyGen for the four turbine demonstration phase of its tidal stream array project.
Commenting, Mr Ewing said the funding announced will help bring to life innovative and exciting plans to develop the world’s largest tidal power project in Scotland.
He said: “Our ambition for Scotland’s emerging wave and tidal sectors remains great. The Pentland Firth development takes our ambition to the next level and further cements Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in deploying renewables technology.
“We know that the successful harnessing of ocean power takes hard work and persistence which is why we are determined to support those in the industry.
“By developing clean, green energy we are creating opportunities for communities in the north of Scotland and delivering jobs and investment.”
The project will deliver up to 398MW of power when fully complete and uses the AR1500 1.5MW tidal stream turbine developed by Atlantis.
Atlantis CEO Tim Cornelius said the project “puts Scotland on the map as being the world leader in free stream tidal power” and will allow for the expansion of tidal power right across Scotland.
Construction will begin this year which will build the infrastructure needed to connect to the grid, with turbines to begin generating in 2016. 61 turbines are expected to provide enough electricity for 42,000 homes. Unlike wind turbines, tidal power is constant and very highly predictable.
Lena Wilson, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise said the project strengthened Scotland’s position as a world leader in tidal generation.
She said: “We’re already leading the world in terms of research and development facilities for the tidal sector, and have more tidal devices being tested in our waters than anywhere else in the world. The plans for the Pentland Firth are further evidence of Scotland’s position as one of the key players in the fast growing renewables sector at a global level.”
Calum Davidson HIE’s Director of Energy and Low Carbon added:
“The MeyGen project is the first commercial scale tidalstream array to be developed and built out. HIE is delighted by today’s announcement as it gives a strong green light to the start of the construction phase of the project.
“It is a huge boost to the Highlands and Islands which is being rightly recognised as a global centre for marine renewables. We have world class wave and tidal conditions here, as well as expertise across the engineering and marine supply chain supported by a skilled and dedicated workforce. HIE is looking forward to working with MeyGen as the project develops in the coming months.”
Scotland is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including offshore renewables. The nation has an estimated 10 per cent of Europe’s total wave power and a staggering 25% of Europe’s wind and tidal power.
Currently more than 11,000 people are already employed in the renewables industry in Scotland and most firms are expecting to grow. Using experience developed in offshore oil and gas has ensured Scotland has the offshore engineering skills to make marine renewables a success and create thousands more jobs in construction, grid development and research.
In June a leading group of academics called for Scotland to control energy policy to escape Westminster’s backing for what they described as “bankrupt” nuclear power. Expert analysis of UK government policy decisions on nuclear has also suggested that Scottish consumers could face lower prices under independence.
Speaking in June, Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie said a Yes vote in September’s referendum would protect Scotland’s renewables industry.
He said: “Scotland’s burgeoning renewable energy industry would benefit from a Yes vote in September. Investment in the sector is already being put at risk by Westminster’s pursuit of new nuclear plants and fracking.
“Crucially, a Yes vote would give the Scottish Parliament the ability to decentralise ownership of the land and infrastructure that renewable energy depends on, spreading the economic benefits of this growing industry throughout society. By also investing in demand reduction, we could tackle the eyewatering costs that consumers have faced as Westminster governments have dithered over our energy future.
“Our vision for growth in renewables means highly-skilled well-paid long-term jobs. Those campaigning for a No vote are not offering to devolve responsibility for energy, so we’d still be saddled with the costs of nuclear decommissioning and its toxic legacy.”