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Wave Farm Points Way Ahead for Scotland

Feb 20, 2007, 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 of power.

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 Grid.

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 Scotland".

Keith Anderson, director of renewables at ScottishPower, said that although the initial output looked small, it was "huge" compared with other developments in marine energy.

"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 costs cheaper.

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 Renewables.htm See epages for a graphic detailing how wave technology works

(c) 2007 Scotsman, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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