'Most powerful' tidal turbine generating electricity at EMEC

The world’s most powerful tidal turbine - Orbital O2 - has commenced grid connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. 

Orbital O2
Moving the Orbital O2 (Image: Orbital Marine Power)

Orbital Marine Power’s 2MW O2 – a floating turbine anchored in the Fall of Warness – is connected via a subsea cable to the local onshore electricity network.

About 15m below the O2’s 72m-long superstructure, two fully integrated power trains from SKF are attached on two wing-like legs. Here the twin-bladed rotors rotate, each with a diameter of 21m, the largest ever on a single generating platform to date, driven by the tidal current.


Manufactured and launched in Dundee earlier in the year before being towed to Orkney, the O2 is Orbital’s first commercial turbine and represents the culmination of over 15 years of product development in the UK.

The turbine is expected to operate in the waters off Orkney for the next 15 years and the company said it will have the capacity to meet the annual electricity demand of around 2,000 UK homes. Additionally, the O2 is to provide power to EMEC’s onshore electrolyser to generate green hydrogen that will be used to demonstrate decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.

In a statement, Orbital CEO, Andrew Scott, said: “Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector.”

The construction of the O2 turbine was supported by Abundance Investment and the Scottish government by the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund. The O2 project has been backed also through funding from Horizon 2020 under the FloTEC project and the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg North West Europe Programme under the ITEG project.

Around 80 per cent of the turbine was delivered by British suppliers and Orbital believes O2’s operation will bring long term employment to coastal communities. Orbital is now looking to commercialise its technology through the deployment of multi-MW arrays.

“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come,” said Scot.