Historic day puts Orkney at the heart of worldwide energy challenge
A major landmark in the drive to harness energy from the sea saw Orkney placed centre stage in the world’s first leasing round for commercial wave and tidal projects.
Eight out of 10 marine energy sites selected by the Crown Estate are in Orkney waters.
With two more sites, off Duncansby Head in Caithness and Armadale in Sutherland, the Crown Estate has set developers the “globally significant” challenge of generating 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2020 – sufficient for around 750,000 homes.
Described as an historic day by Orkney Islands Council, the long awaited announcement will result in a range of wave and tidal technologies being deployed in arrays throughout the islands.
Initially developers and support companies will be involved in the consenting process, in environmental assessments and in community engagement.
At the same time wave and tidal devices in increasing numbers will be tested at EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre, as they evolve towards full commercial deployment at the Crown Estate sites.
In this first leasing round for the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters, developers have signed 10 agreements for lease for seabed sites.
The successful bidders are a mix of major utilites and leading wave and tidal technology pioneers.
The power generation target – 600 megawatts (MW) each from wave and tidal projects – is the equivalent of four times the electricity produced by the Dounreay nuclear power station in its heyday.
“This shows the world that marine energy can produce significant electrical power and offer a real alternative to conventional power production,” said Crown Estate chief executive Roger Bright.
Council convener Councillor Stephen Hagan added: “Orkney boasts an ideal combination of natural resources and centuries of maritime expertise.
“We continue to invest in our maritime facilities and skills and look forward to expanding the expertise and knowledge in the islands in support of this new industry and energy source.”