The Scottish Government has approved ScottishPower Renewables’ plans to develop a 10 MW tidal power array in the Sound of Islay on Scotland’s west coast.
The project, the first of its kind in the world, envisages generating enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of the whole island. It is also the first tidal array project to be approved by Marine Scotland, the directorate of Scottish Government responsible for the management of Scotland's seas.
ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) plans to install ten tidal turbines, each capable of producing 1 MW of electricity. The project will use HS1000 tidal turbines developed by Hammerfest Strøm AS, a company partly-owned owned by Iberdrola (SPR’s parent company).
A commercial agreement has been signed with Diageo, one of the largest distillers on Islay, to provide electricity from the project to eight distilleries and maltings.
Seen as one of the world’s most advanced tidal turbine designs, a prototype device has been generating electricity in Norway for over six years. The company is currently constructing the first HS1000 device that will go into waters off Orkney later this year.
Scotland is widely regarded as having the best tidal power resources anywhere in the world and the progression to demonstration projects is seen as a vital step towards fully realizing this potential.
The Islay project will play a key role in proving a range of factors necessary for the large scale deployment of the technology. This will include developing a better understanding of the technical aspects involved in deploying and maintaining machines and bringing forward systems to monitor and analyse their performance.
The location in The Sound of Islay, the channel of water that separates the islands of Jura and Islay on Scotland’s west coast, was chosen by SPR following a UK-wide search to find the best site for a demonstration project. The Sound of Islay benefits from strong tidal flows, shelter from storms and waves and has available grid capacity. The planning application was also supported by a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment
Keith Anderson, Chief Executive of ScottishPower Renewables, said: “Tidal power has long been considered as one of Scotland’s most valuable renewable energy resources and we have discussed its potential for many years. Today’s announcement moves the whole marine renewables industry forward in Scotland and the UK.
"It is a first in terms of Marine Scotland approval for a tidal project in Scotland, and also a world first for an array of tidal power machines. The understanding we develop from Islay will be essential in delivering the larger planned projects in the Pentland Firth.
“The testing of the HS1000 machine in Orkney this year will help us to finalise our timetable for the demonstration project in Islay, but we will begin work on the project in 2012 and plan to have machines installed as early as feasible during the period 2013 to 2015."
SPR has been working closely with Islay Energy Trust for the last 2 years and have funded a full time development officer on the island to help with the project and to encourage maximum local involvement. This has resulted in a number of residents getting involved with the project and it is anticipated that more than GBP0.5m ($0.8m) will be spent locally during the project development phase.
The company is also developing a 95 turbine tidal project at Ness of Duncansbay in the Pentland Firth as part of The Crown Estate’s first marine energy leasing round. SPR has entered the Ness of Duncansbay project into the Scottish Government’s GBP10m Saltire Prize for marine energy innovation.