In a world first for large-scale tidal power generation, the first turbine of developer Atlantis’ MeyGen array has been officially unveiled and launched out to sea.
The turbine, which will soon be joined by a further three, has begun its journey toward the Pentland Firth, where it will form part of the MeyGen tidal stream project. With an eventual intended total of 269 turbines, the Meyden project will be the largest tidal stream plant on the planet, with a projected generational capacity of almost 400 megawatts.
Currently, just four turbines have been built, including the one launched, with Atlantis Resources hoping to push on with the remaining 265 thanks in part to government funding with £23 million.
Atlantis CEO Tim Cornelius hailed the launch of the first turbine, and the project generally, as “a historic milestone, not just for Atlantis and our partners, but for the entire global tidal power industry”.
He went on: “It gives me enormous pride to have reached this juncture after 10 years of tireless work, preparation and planning by everyone associated with this project. This is the day the tidal power industry announced itself as the most exciting new asset class of renewable, sustainable generation in the UK’s future energy mix.
“This is an industry that is creating jobs and Scotland is the undisputed world leader of this high growth sector.”
Nicola Sturgeon, who attended the launch, reinforced Cornelius’ message, saying: “I am incredibly proud of Scotland’s role in leading the way in tackling climate change and investment in marine renewables is a hugely important part of this.
“MeyGen is set to invigorate the marine renewables industry in Scotland and provide vital jobs for a skilled workforce, retaining valuable offshore expertise here in Scotland that would otherwise be lost overseas. There is no doubt that the eyes of the world are on this project.”
Scotland’s position as a leading force in terms of not just tidal energy but renewable energy more generally was reinforced by the Committee on Climate Change’s assessment that emissions are falling their faster than in the rest of the UK.
In 2014, for example, gross levels greenhouse gas emissions fell in Scotland by 8.6%, compared with a drop of 7.3% across the rest of the UK. The CCC did warn Scotland against resting on their laurels; while recent targets have been met, meeting upcoming and more stringent targets will require work.
However, developments such as the MeyGen project are set to play a key part in that work, though given the youth of tidal generation as a technology, it will take some time before it becomes a stalwart of the general energy infrastructure.
Jenny Hogan of Scottish Renewables described the “potential of tidal generation to make a significant contribution to the UK’s growing need for clean electricity, and to deliver further investment and jobs to the UK”.
“However,” she explained, “this is still an incredibly young technology, and future development is absolutely dependent on continued support from Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels, who have all played a vitally important part in the growth of the sector to date.”
Nonetheless, this first step is being hailed as an important sign of the viability of tidal power. Renewable UK deputy chief executive, Maf Smith, said: “The official launch of the largest tidal stream energy project in the world marks a significant moment in the commercial development of marine power.
“It clearly demonstrates the economic opportunities being created in the UK, which other countries are eyeing enviously – Britain is driving innovation, attracting investment and creating jobs.”