By Martin Kelly
The most detailed study into the tidal power potential of the Pentland Firth has found that it would be possible to satisfy half of Scotland’s electricity needs.
Academics from Edinburgh and Oxford Universities studying the stretch of water off the north coast of Scotland have said it could generate almost 2 gigawatts of electricity, double if efficiency of tidal turbines improves.
Alistair Borthwick from the University of Edinburgh said the study was the most detailed yet carried out resulting in the most accurate estimates of the waterway’s potential.
He said: “Our research builds on earlier studies by analysing the interactions between turbines and the tides more closely.
“This is a more accurate approach than was used in the early days of tidal stream power assessment, and should be useful in calculating how much power might realistically be recoverable from the Pentland Firth.”
The Pentland Firth is well known for the strength of its tides, being among some of the fastest in the world.
In September last year the Firth became the largest tidal turbine energy project in Europe when the Scottish Government gave the go ahead for an array of six 9MW demonstration turbines. The new research has allowed locations to be pinpointed that will maximise energy generation.
Professor Guy Houlsby of the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, said: “The UK enjoys potentially some of the best tidal resources worldwide, and if we exploit them wisely they could make an important contribution to our energy supply. These studies should move us closer towards the successful exploitation of the tides.”
The Scottish Government has set a target of one hundred per cent equivalent eletricity generated by renewables by the year 2020.
In December last year new figures showed Scotland’s renewable electricity output was operating at record levels and set to grow. The figures, which were released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, showed that renewables met a record-breaking 40.3 per cent of gross electricity consumption in Scotland in 2012 with the record set to be broken in 2013.
The latest statistics confirm that Scotland is on track to meet its interim target of 50% by 2015, which will mark significant progress towards the Scottish Government’s 2020 target of the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewable sources.
Scotland’s offshore energy sector was given a boost when French state-controlled group Areva and Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa agreed a preliminary deal to create one of the biggest players in offshore wind energy.
“By choosing to create a European offshore wind champion with Gamesa, Areva is playing a key role in the consolidation, already underway, of the offshore wind sector and confirms its long-term commitment to renewable energies,” Areva Chief Executive Luc Oursel said.
A statement issued on behalf of the two companies said: “Offshore wind energy is one of the renewable energies with the most growth potential in the coming years, especially in coastal countries in Northern Europe,”
Commenting on the announcement, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “This is great news and the Scottish Government will continue to work closely with both companies to support their plans and ensure maximum benefit to Scotland from this joint venture. I look forward to discussing plans for the future and for Scotland with both companies as we seek to maximise our offshore wind potential.”