Scottish government approves world's largest tidal power scheme

The Scottish government has approved plans for a 10MW tidal power array on Scotland’s West coast, which when completed will be the largest of its kind in the world.

ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) will install ten tidal turbines, each capable of producing 1MW of electricity, off the Sound of Islay. The project will use HS1000 tidal turbines developed by Hammerfest Strøm, a company partly-owned owned by Iberdrola (SPR’s parent company).

The array will generate enough electricity for over 5000 homes – more than double the amount needed to power the island. SPR is currently constructing the first HS1000 device that will go into testing in waters off Orkney later this year.

‘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,’ said Keith Anderson, chief executive of SPR.

The HS1000 device is based on a 300kW prototype, which has been installed in Kvalsundet in Norway for the last six years. The prototype device was the first turbine in the world to convert kinetic energy in tidal waters to electricity and deliver to the grid in 2004.

The Sound of Islay is a channel of water that separates the islands of Jura and Islay on Scotland’s west coast, and 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.

’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. 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,’ Anderson said.

The Sound of Islay project will cost an estimated £40 million, covering manufacture, transport, testing and installation costs in addition to ongoing maintenance and infrastructure.

Scottish businesses have secured £4 million worth of contracts to make the turbines to be used in the development, with the largest contract going to Fife-based Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab).

Scottish Power Renewables also has preliminary plans for a 95 turbine tidal project at Ness of Duncansbay in the Pentland Firth which it has submitted to the £10 million Saltire Prize for marine energy innovation.