Wave Farm Points Way Ahead for Scotland
Feb 20, 2007 energycentral.com, The Scotsman
The world's biggest wave-power farm is to be built
off Scotland's coast, ushering in a revolution in
green energy production, The Scotsman can reveal.
The GBP 10 million scheme off Orkney, set to start
operating next year, will be the UK's first commercial
wave farm and is expected to produce energy for up
to 25 years.
It is one of nine wave and tidal schemes to be announced
by ministers today which will harness the energy of
the sea. Scotland has significant amounts of wave
energy and also has expertise in engineering at sea
thanks to the oil industry, a combination that could
make this country the world leader in the field. It
is hoped thousands of jobs could be created in a whole
new industry supplying wave and tidal power systems
to other countries.
Experts say that every metre of Scottish coastline
has enough wave energy reaching it to power 100 homes.
The news came amid renewed concern about the cost
to the environment of traditional forms of energy.
A report by Edinburgh consultants Wood Mackenzie warned
that all new oil finds within 15 years were likely
to come from sources that are expensive to extract
from, both in money and energy, as well as damaging
to the environment.
The Orkney wave farm, which will be run by ScottishPower,
will generate three megawatts of electricity - enough
to power about 3,000 homes. The energy will come from
four sausage-shaped generators, which will convert
wave power into electricity which can then be transported
to the mainland.
Edinburgh-based Ocean Power Delivery (OPD) is supplying
the four wave-energy converters or "Pelamis", named
after a type of sea snake, for the Orkney scheme.
Each one is about 520ft long and creates 750 kilowatts
The farm will enable scientists to discover how the
devices work together, how much energy is produced
in the conditions and what effect it has on the National
Richard Yemm, managing director of OPD, said: "Wave
technology for a long time has languished in the lab.
We are now putting the technology in the water where
we can measure it on a commercial basis."
The Executive has targets to generate increasing
amounts of electricity from renewables, with them
providing 18 per cent of needs by 2010 and 40 per
cent by 2020. Scotland is expected meet its 18 per
cent renewable electricity target during 2007.
A spokesman for the Executive said an announcement
would be made today detailing grants given to nine
companies to support marine renewable schemes. "A
total of GBP 8 million was made available to get wave
and tidal devices in Scottish waters. We are going
to announce the successful bidders and there's a little
bit extra put into the fund because the demand has
been so high."
Environmentalists said this was a "great day for
Keith Anderson, director of renewables at ScottishPower,
said that although the initial output looked small,
it was "huge" compared with other developments in
"This is a massive step forward," he said. "It's
testing the real devices that should be able to withstand
the sea conditions for 20 or 25 years. The information
that comes back will feed into subsequent versions.
There will be a process of continual improvement."
He said the sea could potentially provide three times
the power that the UK uses and, unlike the wind, could
do so in a constant stream of all-important "baseload"
power. "The reason people get so excited about the
potential of marine is the fact it is very, very predictable
and a very constant source of energy production. That's
one of the things that still needs to be proven,"
Mr Anderson said.
"The importance of this is to scale it up - can you
scale it up, can you make it commercially viable,
can we start to move this industry forward?"
Mr Anderson said Scotland and Portugal were leading
the world in marine energy, with Spain, South Africa,
west-coast states in the US and Canada also showing
interest in the area.
"If we want to follow the Danish model - which became
the world leader in wind power - we need to have this
sort of step," he said.
Wave energy is not currently competitive with other
established forms of electricity production and needs
to be subsidised. However, it is expected the cost
will gradually come down as the technology becomes
more efficient and economies of scale make production
The first commercial wind farm in the UK - built
at Delabole in Cornwall in 1991 - was a similar size
to the Orkney wave power scheme, providing enough
electricity for 5,000 homes. The same amount of power
from its ten turbines could now be provided by less
than two modern ones.
The industry hopes the cost of wave power will follow
that of wind power, which has fallen by 80 per cent
since the first turbines were introduced. The wind
sector now generates more than 2,000 megawatts across
the UK, enough to power half the homes in Scotland.
OPD expects that future wave farms would be made
from a number of machines connected to shore by a
single sub-sea cable. A "typical" 30-megawatt farm
would occupy a just under half a square mile and provide
enough electricity for 20,000 homes. Twenty such farms
could power Edinburgh.
Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said:
"We have long argued we need to build a broad renewable
base in Scotland. I think this is excellent - we are
now just on the cusp of commercial wave-power generation."
Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the
Earth Scotland, said wave and tidal could meet a fifth
of the UK's electricity needs. "It is critical that
we see full-scale devices in our waters soon, otherwise
the world-leading expertise Scotland has built up
will rapidly depart these shores," he said.
"We can tackle climate change without having to
resort to polluting nuclear power if we ensure all
forms of renewable energy, including wave and tidal
sources, are used," he added.
MORE INFO www.oceanpd.com/default.html www.scottishpower.com/
See epages for a graphic detailing how wave technology
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