By Martin Kelly
Scotland has launched its first Marine Energy Park in the north of of the country.
The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Energy Generation Park will help research and development into marine energy by linking private companies with Universities.
The project will include the European Marine Energy Centre (Emec) on Orkney, where several wave and tidal devices are currently undergoing testing, including the Pelamis P2 wave converter.
The Pentland Firth has been described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal power and has huge renewables potential. The announcement comes as Mainstream Energy announced plans for an offshore wind farm off the coast of Fife.
Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said this was another milestone in Scotland’s renewables revolution.
Mr Gibson, Convener of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, said:
“Scotland has massive potential for delivering safe and secure clean green energy. Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s wind and tidal potential as well as 10% of its wave power.
“Today’s announcement of the Pentland Firth is another step in achieving our renewable energy potential and further evidence that Scotland is a world leader of the renewable energy revolution.”
The news coincides with an announcement by Mainstream Power of plans for an offshore wind farm off the coast of Fife that will deliver a £1.4bn investment and could power hundreds of thousands of homes. Scotland is leading the marine energy sector with seven of the world’s eight tidal demonstrations based in its waters.
Mr Gibson added:
“Scotland leads the world in renewable energy, with our green energy potential and vast natural resources, and we have a responsibility to make sure our nation seizes this opportunity to create tens of thousands of new jobs and secure billions of pounds of investment in our economy.”
However, whilst welcoming today’s launch, Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner Guy Shrubsole took a swipe at UK Chancellor George Osborne’s plans for new gas fired power stations.
He said: “Renewable energy projects such as this are exactly what are needed to reduce the nation’s reliance on dirty and increasingly expensive gas and create thousands of new jobs.
“This Marine Energy Park is just a splash in the ocean – the potential of clean British energy is enormous.
“But, the push to build a clean and affordable future is under threat from George Osborne’s reckless drive for more gas-fired power stations.
“A new dash for gas will have a damaging impact on household fuel bills and UK climate targets – the Chancellor must be stopped.”
Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre has already seen OpenHydro’s tidal generating device becoming the first to supply energy to the national grid. Another, the 100ft-high 1MW (megawatt) Hammerfest Strom HS1000 device is already powering homes and businesses on the island of Eday.
One of the devices currently undergoing trials at the Orkney marine centre is the Pelamis wave converter. The device represents the UK’s first commercial supply contract within the marine energy sector.
The machine is 180 metres long – or as long as the Gherkin building in London is tall – and weighs approximately 1,500 tonnes. It is capable of generating 750kW of renewable energy.
Scotland has huge offshore power resources, with an estimated 14GW of wave power giving it 10% of the EU’s capacity.
Scottish tidal power is estimated at up to 7.5GW, which is 25% of the EU’s total capacity. The commercial advantage of tidal technology is that it provides a predictable source of energy that can contribute to the overall energy mix to secure a constant source of power generation.
In addition, unlike most renewable technologies that frequently face resistance due to their visibility, tidal devices are submerged at subsea level so there is no visual or audible pollution.
In May this year, the Scottish government announced funding of £18 million in order to help move the wave and tidal sector from prototype devices to commercially-viable arrays.
First Minister speaking in May this year: