Scotland Policy: Going Blue with Wave and Tidal Renewable Energy

March 16, 2010: renewable wave and tidal energy took a major leap to combat climate change. The Crown Estate, the official property management organization of the United Kingdom, has leased Scottish offshore lands so energy production companies may begin their work. In total, the projects would provide 1.2 GW of electricity, enough to power 750,000 homes (Guardian, 2010). The project will cost about 4 billion British pounds (6 billion US dollars). Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister said the project resembled the “Saudi Arabia of marine power" since the strength of wave and tidal energy is in such relentless abundance.

The wave energy technologies to be used are the Oyster and the Pelamis systems. Aquamarine Power’s Oyster system is a hinged flap that catches wave power using it to pressurize water into electricity producing turbines. Pelamis will likely utilize their Wave Energy Converter, which resembles snakelike tubes connected at joints floating on the water’s surface. These joints have hydraulics systems which will force fluid to spin turbines to produce electricity. The benefit of the Pelamis system is easy maintenance and installations, similar to anchoring a boat offshore. The tidal energy technologies to be used are the Openhydro system and SeaGen. The Openhydro system is the most simplistic: it is an underwater airplane jet turbine that uses water instead of wind to produce electricity. The SeaGen is another design most resembling an underwater wind turbine to produce electricity.

The eight power makers are: Pelamis Wave Power Ltd, SSE Renewable Developments (UK) Ltd, Aquamarine Power Ltd, SSE Renewables Holdings (UK) Ltd., E.ON Climate & Renewable UK Ltd., Openhydro Site Development, Scottish Power Renewables UK Ltd., and Marine Current Turbine Ltd.

The projects: the majority of wave and tidal power harvest is concentrated around the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland. The six wave projects by their location, producer (and power capacity) are: Armdale by Pelamis (50 Megawatts), Costa Head by SSE Renewable Developments (200 MW), Marwick Head by Scottish Power (50 MW), West Orkney Middle South by E.ON (50 MW), Brough Head by Aquamarine and SSE Renewables Holdings (200 MW), & West Orkney South by E.ON (50 MW). The four tidal projects by their location, producer (and power capacity) are: Cantick Head by SSE Renewable Holdings & Openhydro (200 MW), Ness of Duncansby by Scottish Power (100MW), Brough Ness by Marine Current (100MW), & Westray South by SSE Renewables Developments (200MW).

In 2005 there were 2.27 million households in Scotland (General Register Office for Scotland, 2005). The coming wave and tidal installations would service one-third of Scottish households eliminating one third of carbon emissions in the building sector (the largest source of carbon emissions in any developed nation.) Indeed, wave and tidal renewable energy systems are providing the energy to combat climate change.

Photo Credit: foxypar4