The Scottish Government and the Crown Estate have announced ten schemes costing some £5 billion to be built off the Scottish coast.

They are expected to harness the area’s fierce waters to generate up to 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of electricity and power up to 750,000 households.

Hailing the plans, Scottish first minister Alex Salmond said: “These waters have been described as the Saudi Arabia of marine power and the wave and tidal projects unveiled today, exceeding the initial700MW target capacity, underline the rich natural resources of the waters of Scotland.”

The projects, billed as the world’s first commercial wave and tidal power schemes, will be built around the Orkney Islands and Pentland Firth.

A host of energy firms has signed leases with the Crown Estate, which owns the UK seabed to 12 nautical miles out, to develop the schemes.

Roger Bright, Crown Estate chief executive, said: “The 1.2GW of installed capacity proposed by the wave and tidal energy developers for 2020 shows the world that marine energy can produce meaningful amounts of electricity and offers a real alternative to conventional power production.

“The long term prospects for this growing industry are exceptionally bright, with vast amounts of untapped energy in the seas all around the UK. It will create new businesses and jobs as well as attracting inward investment.”

The schemes announced last Tuesday (March 16) are due to be operating by 2020.

Six sites have been earmarked for wave energy developments and four for tidal power – each generating up to 600 megawatts.

But some engineering experts say the technical challenges of delivering electricity generated this way to homes will make it very expensive.

Among the energy companies developing schemes are E.ON, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) Renewables and Scottish Power Renewables.

Mr Salmond pointed out Scottish waters boast up to a quarter of Europe’s tidal and offshore wind resources and a tenth of the continent’s potential wave capacity.

He said: “The Scottish government is working with the Crown Estate, developers and key partners to support this rapidly-growing industry, to ensure communities such as those in Caithness and Orkney are well-placed to reap the benefits and to secure Scotland’s position as the green energy powerhouse of Europe.”

David Gibbs

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