Tidal energy breaks through in Scotland

The Shetland Tidal Array is the first offshore tidal array to become fully operational.
Published: Wed 07 Sep 2016

The Shetland Tidal Array being developed in the Bluemull Sound in Shetland’s North Isles is claimed to have become the first in the word to become fully operational and to deliver power to the national grid.

This breakthrough was achieved last month, when a second tidal turbine was installed alongside the first, which had been in place since March. In the first phase of the project the goal is to deploy three 100kW turbines.

"We are absolutely delighted to be the first company in the world to deploy a fully operational tidal array,” said Simon Forrest, managing director of Nova Innovation, who initiated the project. "Deploying the second turbine truly sets us apart and showcases our technology.”

Tidal energy innovation

Nova Innovation, based in Edinburgh, was founded in 2010 with the aim to develop innovative tidal energy technology.

In 2014 the company installed its Nova 30 30kW tidal turbine in the Bluemull Sound as a community energy project for the local North Yell Development Council. The turbine comprises a three bladed rotor that drives a 3-phase induction generator – much like a wind turbine. Similarly to a wind turbine the nacelle turns as the tide changes so that it points downstream.

The Nova M100 turbine in the Shetland project with two blades is the next generation turbine, designed around the principles of safety, reliability and low lifetime cost with suitability for a wide range of deep water, estuarine and river environments.

The project is being developed in partnership with the Belgian renewable energy company ELSA.

According to Nova, the project’s success “heralds a new era for tidal energy as a long-term source of predictable renewable power.”

The UK Carbon Trust has estimated that a global tidal energy market of £126 billion could be developed by 2050. A strong case has been made for a focus on tidal power in the UK and of the 20 or so sites that have been identified globally as ideal for large scale tidal power, the country has eight. [Engerati-Why the UK Should Consider Tidal Over Wind Power and UK’s Tide Comes In]

Tidal turbine to test in Orkney

Nova Innovation isn’t the only company developing tidal energy in Scottish waters. Scotrenewables is to test its SR2000 turbine, described as “the world’s most powerful turbine,” at the European Marine Energy Centre’s (EMEC) test site in Orkney.

The turbine is 63m in length and is able to generate 2MW of power. Whereas Nova Innovation’s technology sits on a subsea cradle, Scotrenewables’ platform comprises a floating hull with two sets of retractable (for transport) blades.

“We’re looking forward to the test programme and providing clear evidence of the significant advantages our technology can bring to the sector whilst offering a step-change in reducing costs,” said Andrew Scott, chief executive of Scotrenewables.

The company believes the floating technology offers a low cost approach to the installation and maintenance of tidal turbines, while also simplifying offshore operations.

With the £7 million from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme Scotrenewables will lead on the engineering and delivery of an enhanced model of the SR2000 machine. Scheduled to run until 2019, the FloTEC project is aimed to advance the technology to a 25% lower levelised cost of energy (LCoE) through a series of targeted innovations that will be delivered in an SR2000 Mark 2 machine. These include centralised power conversion with integrated energy storage, improved energy capture through increased rotor swept area and advanced lower cost manufacturing techniques.

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