Scotland became the first country in the world to have “a large-scale tidal energy farm” when the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the first of four turbines at a ceremony outside Inverness in the Scottish Highlands last week. “MeyGen is set to invigorate the marine renewables industry in Scotland, retaining valuable offshore expertise here in Scotland that would otherwise be lost overseas.” said the First Minister at the opening ceremony. So far, there have been stand-alone tidal turbines around the world. Tidal energy has two major advantages over wind power: it is predictable, and it does not attract criticism of the visual impact of wind turbines on land. But it is much more expensive as compared to wind energy because the technology is less developed.
The MeyGen tidal stream project led by Edinburgh-based Atlantis Resources will be having four turbines in the first phase, which will harness energy from the ocean’s waves to produce electricity absolutely free from greenhouse gas emissions. The project is located in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth, the water body that separates the north Scottish mainland from Stroma Island. The MeyGen scheme will be Europe’s largest tidal array project – a scheme where turbines are clustered across an area of seabed.
It is a huge leap forward for power generation through tidal energy and the job market in Scotland. Each of the four turbines weighs over 200 tons and is nearly 50 feet tall; the blades sweep diameter is 50 feet. Each turbine can produce up to 1.5 megawatts of electricity. When the project is completed, 269 of these monstrous turbines will harness the power from the ocean waves to produce nearly 400 megawatts of power. This is enough electricity to power 175,000 homes in the country. This tidal energy farm is expected to be completed by the end of the year 2020.
The total cost of this project is estimated to be $2 billion, inflation excluded. So far, the Scottish government has approved and funded the first phase (comprising of four turbines) of this massive tidal energy project to the tune of $30 million.
Environmentalists only fear such developments should not stall because of the power transmission costs and a lack of financial backing from ministers and the UK government’s subsidy cuts for renewable energy projects.