Tidal power comes of age with completion of unique Scottish project

The potential for the tides to generate clean, reliable electricity has taken a significant step this month with the completion of a flagship project in Scottish waters.

The innovative MeyGen tidal array has recently finished construction and is now connected to the UK’s mainland national grid. It represents the largest tidal energy project in the world with four 1.5 megawatt (MW) turbines being placed on the seabed in the Pentland Firth, 1.2 miles off Scotland’s north-east tip.

The area is known for its choppy waters and some of the fiercest tides in the world; strong currents coming in from the Atlantic Ocean flow through the area into the North Sea. 

The final 6MW tidal project can power a maximum of 2,600 homes and has already shown its potential with record-breaking generation over summer last year. It will stay in operation for 25 years; however, the developer, Atlantis Resources, has plans, and permission, to build at least four more phases of the array with the hope that 296 turbines could be constructed.

Tim Cornelius, CEO of Atlantis, said: “Seeing the MeyGen project move into the operations phase is another major milestone on the path to commercialising tidal stream energy…We are incredibly proud of this achievement and this provides a solid platform for building out the full capacity at MeyGen and many other similar sites worldwide.”

The UK is a world leader in marine energy with some of the best wave and tidal resources in Europe. The government has previously estimated that it could provide 20 percent of all electricity demand in the country. However, the technology’s costs have not come down quick enough and central government support has disappeared in recent years.

“This achievement is a triumph of public policy and a demonstration of what can be achieved when government and the private sector roll their sleeves up and decide to create a whole new industry together,” Cornelius added.

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, was keen to emphasise that “support from the Scottish Government has been instrumental in getting the company to this stage.”

“From granting a marine licence in 2014, to providing over £23 million of investment in phase 1A of the project, and to officially launching the project in 2016, Scottish Ministers have been actively involved in MeyGen’s success from the start.”

Photo Credit: Atlantis Resources Ltd

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