New 30MW tidal energy project unveiled in Orkney

Tidal power in Orkney

Tidal energy firm Orbital Marine Power (Orbital) has been awarded an Option Agreement from Crown Estate Scotland for a new tidal energy project in the Westray Firth.

Orkney-headquartered Orbital also confirmed it has a grid connection in place to service the project, which is located adjacent to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) facility, where Orbital has already deployed the 2MW O2, said to be the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, under commercial operation. Renewable projects in Orkney were recently given a boost by Ofgem announcing it is minded to approve a new 220MW transmission connection, to be built from the Scottish mainland to service renewable power exports from the islands.

Following the award of contracts for difference (CfDs) in last year’s AR4 process, Orbital is already targeting the installation of three more of its tidal turbines at the EMEC site, alongside the O2, to expand its tidal generation capacity in the coming years.

In keeping with the company’s strategy of carrying out major aspects of its manufacturing within the UK, the construction of the Westray project would be expected to result in over £120m of domestic supply chain spend and create hundreds of jobs across construction and around a dozen new permanent jobs locally to provide operations and maintenance services.

The Option Agreement is for 30MW, which would equate to approximately 12 Orbital devices installed across the site. The waters around Orkney have significant wider tidal stream energy potential and the Westray site offers just one example of how this can be harnessed to provide clean, predictable power.

The Orbital team is engaged with stakeholders and is progressing environmental studies, with a view to reaching consent application as soon as possible. The company also brings the benefit of extensive local operational and environmental data to help shape and inform optimal project design, having successfully installed, operated and monitored multiple floating tidal projects on the neighbouring EMEC site since 2011.

Andrew Scott, CEO at Orbital Marine Power, said: “As the UK looks to accelerate the decarbonisation of its energy system, we firmly believe tidal projects can bring unique benefits while harnessing a perfectly predictable and secure source of renewable energy. We’re proud to be building that vision in Orkney with this investment in our Westray Project.”

Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, said: “These are exciting times for tidal stream energy. Progress with Orbital’s Westray project is a vote of confidence in the potential here in the isles and demonstrates exactly why expanding grid capacity for Orkney has been so important.

“This good news is also evidence of the need for a more robust strategy from the government on tidal stream deployment, including continued and expanded backing in the next round of Contracts for Difference funding. We need to continue to ramp up development in the years to come.”

Sian Wilson, Crown Estate Scotland, said: “The Orbital team has successfully secured development rights to progress the tidal energy site located in the Westray Firth which offers a great opportunity to tap into the vast tidal energy resource within Orkney Waters. The predictable nature of tidal energy means such projects will perform a crucial role as we transition to a decarbonised energy system and build Scotland’s blue economy.”

Responding, Amy Keast, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Orbital Marine Power’s Westray project is yet another example of how much potential there is in Scotland for the development of tidal energy technology.

“At Scottish Renewables, we are particularly pleased to see that construction of this project will see a significant spend of over £120 million in the Scottish supply chain as well as provide around a dozen permanent jobs for people in Orkney who will be needed to service the project once operational.

“A recent decision to connect Orkney to the mainland with a new power cable was instrumental in making sure this pioneering project could proceed, and shows that the renewable energy industry in Scotland can deliver so much when developers have certainty that they will be able to connect their project to the electricity network.

“Today’s announcement is not just brilliant news for Orbital Marine Power but for the entire renewable energy industry, and this project shows the lengths to which tidal energy can contribute to net-zero, local employment and energy security.”