SCOTLAND’S first commercial-scale tidal turbine has been connected to the electricity grid off the Orkney coast and begun generating power.
The gigantic machine which resembles an underwater wind turbine weighs 1,500 tonnes and stands 70 feet off the seabed.
Atlantis Resources Corporation hopes the 1MW device, known as AR1000, will generate enough electricity annually to power about 1,000 homes.
If the project proves successful, within the next decade, the company is hoping to install hundreds of the machines in the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth off Scotland’s north coast.
The machine was lowered into the sea at the European Marine Energy Centre (Emec) off Orkney and will undergo a further two years of tests. Atlantis chief executive Tim Cornelius said that he was proud of the achievement of the team that successfully installed the machine.
“By connecting a 1MW single rotor device in Scottish waters to the national grid, they have achieved something that has never been done before,” he said.
He added that he was “very confident” the turbine would work effectively as it is monitored over the next two years. We will measure success by showing that we can match theoretical output with actual output,” he said.
The AR1000 device was built using expertise from across the UK, with the parts being constructed in Poole, Newcastle, Invergordon, Scunthorpe and Bedford. Professional divers were provided by Leask Marine in Orkney and site surveyors came from Edinburgh.
Mr Cornelius told The Scotsman it was an exciting time for the tidal turbine sector and added that they had been shown “overwhelming support” locally for helping to kick-start new employment and industry in the region.
Atlantis Resources is part of MeyGen Ltd, which has a lease from the Crown Estate to develop part of the seabed in the Pentland Firth, known as the Inner Sound tidal site. The joint venture, one of the biggest of its kind, aims to build up to 400 of the turbines in the Inner Sound tidal site in the Pentland Firth, behind the island of Stroma and the mainland, starting in 2013. This would provide enough electricity for about 400,000 homes.
Tidal turbines harness the energy provided by the movement of the tides and supporters say they will provide a predictable, reliable source of green electricity.
However, questions remain about whether the technology will be effective, the impact of tidal renewable energy on marine life and some concerns have been raised by shipping and fishing groups. And the scheme to install 400 turbines will require planning permission before it can go ahead.
Neil Kermode, managing director of Emec, said: “It is wonderful to see this commercial-scale tidal turbine connect to the grid from Orkney waters.
“The marine energy industry in Scotland continues to gather pace and is working towards world-leading targets in terms of deployment and generation of renewable energy.”
Dozens of wave and tidal companies are developing machines to try to harness the power of the sea. They include Pelamis, an Edinburgh-based firm that has created its “sea snake” wave device that sits on the surface of the water, and Aquamarine Power, also based in Scotland’s capital creators of the Oyster.