Scotland is building what it calls the world’s biggest tidal array in the Pentland Firth in northern Scotland, the country’s government announced last week.
Once built, the tidal array is projected to provide enough electricity to power 175,000 homes, and will also create up to 100 jobs. Construction is slated to begin later this year, and the first phase will install four 1.5-megawatt turbines that will start supplying power to the grid in 2016. Overall, the project will involve installing up to 269 turbines on the seafloor, which will capture the energy of ocean tides.
“This innovative and exciting project puts Scotland and the U.K. on the map as a global leader in marine technology – meaning jobs, better energy security and the potential to export this technology to the world,” U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey said in a statement. “The project also shows what can be done when the U.K. and Scottish Governments work together to provide a lasting benefit for the people of Scotland.”
The U.K. is hoping to replace a fifth of its aging coal and gas plants with renewable energy by 2020. According to the government, the U.K. has about 50 percent of Europe’s energy tidal energy resources, and if developed fully, wave and tidal stream energy could meet 20 percent of the U.K.’s demand for power. Already, Scotland is home to the world’s first commercial wave power generator, and the government estimates that marine-based renewable energy like tidal arrays could one day power 750,000 homes in Scotland.
“We’re already leading the world in terms of research and development facilities for the tidal sector, and have more tidal devices being tested in our waters than anywhere else in the world,” Lena Wilson, chief executive of economic agency Scottish Enterprise said. “The plans for the Pentland Firth are further evidence of Scotland’s position as one of the key players in the fast growing renewables sector at a global level.”
Scotland isn’t the only country working to harness tidal and wave energy, however. Earlier this month, Wales unveiled a 156-ton tidal power generator which will generator will provide 400 kilowatts of energy to the grid. The company that built the generator, which has been dubbed the ‘Spirit of the Sea,’ wants to build nine more generators, a project that the company hopes will ultimately generate 10 megawatts of power — enough to power about 10,000 homes.