The world’s largest tidal energy project, capable of powering nearly 175,000 homes in the U.K. with 400 megawatts of power, will break ground next month in northeast Scotland. Atlantis, majority owner of the MeyGen project, announced that its flagship project had met all the conditions required to start drawing down finance through the U.K.’s Renewable Energy Investment Fund.
The completed project will have 269 sunken turbines, according to Atlantis, which expects to have about 60 of these installed and delivering power by 2020.
In the announcement to investors, Atlantis said: “The major construction and supply contractors to this iconic project have commenced design, engineering and procurement works in readiness for commencement of onshore construction at the project site in Caithness in January 2015.”
Tim Cornelius, Chief Executive Officer of Atlantis, said that Lockheed Martin’s project-specific 1.5 megawatt turbines were scheduled to be delivered on time for construction purposes. In November, the MeyGen project was awarded the first-ever Navigator Award at the International Conference on Ocean Energy, in recognition of the “project’s significant contribution to global marine renewable industry.”
Scotland is trying hard to harness all forms of renewable energy as part of its goal of generating 100 percent of its electricity demand from renewables by 2020. The wind-rich country is home to around a quarter of Europe’s total offshore wind capacity. In October, the Scottish Government approved four huge new offshore wind farms that could produce more than 2.2 gigawatts of power, enough to power 1.4 million homes.
Atlantis is also working on tidal energy projects off the coast of Canada. The firm was recently awarded a Feed-in Tariff for up to 4.5 megawatts of tidal generation to be deployed at the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) in Nova Scotia, Canada.
“We are delighted that the Nova Scotia Government has chosen to make this substantial award to Atlantis,” said Cornelius. “Having also reached financial close on the first phase of our MeyGen project in Scotland, we are building momentum on our projects around the world, realizing our goal of bringing cost-effective clean energy to market at commercial scale — on both sides of the Atlantic.”
However there are still many challenges ahead for the company and the tidal and wave power industries. Atlantis’ share price dipped on Friday, with the company saying it “knows of no trading or operational reason to warrant this change.”
The Scottish government is also struggling to support large wave energy companies, and has been accused of “pulling the rug” out from under at least two of these major companies as commercial success had yet to materialize.
In the wake of these recent wave power failings, Brian Wilson, U.K. energy minister between 2001 and 2003, wrote that “we should not give up on marine renewables” even if they are oversold to the public and overhyped for their benefits, making them almost guaranteed to disappoint.
“The same problems and challenges exist around the world. But for heaven’s sake, spare us the political hype and downright deceptions. If these technologies are ever going to deliver anything, it will be on the basis of technology — not the spin of politicians.”