Europe’s largest tidal array granted planning consent

This week it was announced that the Scottish Government has granted planning consent to what will be Europe’s largest tidal array energy project.

The go ahead for the project was announced by Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, earlier this week, saying;  “Today we have granted consent to MeyGen Limited to develop the largest tidal turbine array in Europe and the first commercial project off these shores.”

Maygen is a joint venture between the investment bank Morgan Stanley, GDF Suez, International Power, and Atlantis Resources Corporation (a developer of tidal energy technology). A 25 year lease has already been agreed with the Crown Estate for 1.4 square miles of fast flowing water between the north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland and the Island of Stroma. Planning consent has been granted for the development of around 86 1 MW (Megawatt) turbines. This would generate up to 86 MWs of electricity, enough to power 42,000 homes or 40% of the homes in the Highlands according to Scottish Government sources.

However, development is scheduled to occur in phases. With construction happening up until 2020. The first phase of the development is the installation of 9 of the 1 MW turbines to act as a demonstration of the successful commercialization of the technology. Each turbine stands 22.5 metres tall (73 feet), weighs 1,500 tonnes, and has a rotor diameter of 18 metres (59 feet) The site within the Pentland Firth could eventually yield up to 398 MWs of power.

Tidal and marine energy generation are considered by both the UK and Scottish Governments to have a huge role to play in the fulfillment of the countries renewable energy commitments. Improvement and refinement of the necessary technology will continue in the coming years but the development of the Pentland Firth array will act as both a milestone for the technology itself and also for Scotland’s world leading marine energy industry. The Carbon Trust has estimated that wave and tidal technology could provide 20% of the UK’s electricity demand if our resources are fully developed.

News of the granting of planning consent was met favourably by both industry and environmental bodies. A spokesperson for WWF Scotland commented:

“Scotland is well placed to lead in developing the technologies to turn this potential into a reality while create thousands of green jobs at the same time,

“However, as there is little point in generating huge amounts of marine renewable energy on Scotland’s islands if it cannot also be got to the mainland, we now need UK and Scottish Ministers to find a way forward that enables us to harness the full potential of this clean energy source.

“With careful planning we can harness Scotland’s huge wave and tidal energy to help cut our climate emissions, while safeguarding the nation’s tremendous marine environment.”

Scottish Renewables Policy Manager Michael Rieley stated:

“Scotland has just been given another reason to be proud of its burgeoning marine energy industry now that Europe’s largest tidal stream energy project will be calling Scotland home. This is by far one of the most important milestones for the tidal energy sector to meet.

“This latest announcement to come from the marine industry is further proof that all the hard work to win the global energy race is paying off. Not only will new projects like this mean a step further towards meeting our renewable energy targets, but it will also lead to further jobs being created, increased investment, and a significant contribution towards tackling climate change.”

In regards to onshore wind generation, UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced this week that onshore wind developments on the Scottish Islands are to be incentivised through the use of “strike prices”; higher subsidy payments than such developments would receive on the mainland. It was stated that the new price of £115 MW/h (megawatt hour) has been set to reflect the unique circumstances and potential of carrying out such renewable energy developments. The “strike price” does not apply for any other form of power generation than onshore wind. Often suitable sites on the Isles are subject to higher wind speeds than would be encountered on the mainland. However, costs can be far higher due to the potential difficulties and extra costs associated with connecting into the electricity grid. This is the first time that the UK Government has set a higher strike price for a specific region of the UK.

Mr Davey commented:

“This is good news for the future of renewables in Scotland and this unique solution will pave the way for more investment in green energy.

“An independent report showed that the specific circumstances of the Scottish islands required a different approach that breaks the mould of the wider UK strike price mechanism, and we are delivering that.

“This was possible because of a strong partnership between Westminster, Holyrood and the island councils.

“Thanks to consumers across the whole of the United Kingdom, we can offer this special higher strike price, so Britain gets more green energy, so consumers’ bills in Scotland are kept affordable and so the green economy of the islands grows.”

From the news announced this week we can see the central role that Scotland, and in particular the Scottish Islands, have to play in not only increasing the UK’s energy security, meeting renewable energy generation targets, and reducing carbon emissions but also in the development of a world class industry capitalising on the natural resources of the country.

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