UK’s first floating tidal stream turbine to be built in Scotland

An artist's impression of what the innovative new turbine could look like. Image: Scotrenewables

Developed by Orkney-based renewable energy innovation firm Orbital Marine Power, the 2MW device will comprise a 73-metre-long floating superstructure with a 1MW turbine attached to each side. The development team behind the innovation claim this design makes it easy to install, maintain and tow.

Production of the technology, called the O2 Turbine, will begin in Orkney this year, Orbital Marine Power confirmed this week, after £7m of investment was raised by peer-to-peer ethical investment company Abundance.

The project is being partially funded by the Scottish Government, which has pledged £2m, with the remainder of the investment having been crowdfunded among the investor community and the general public. In total, around 2,300 individuals have invested in the scheme.

This level of funding will enable Orbital Marine Power to launch the first O2 Turbine in 2020. The device will be based at Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and has received support from the EU’s Horizon 2020 scheme – an EU research and innovation programme.

“We are delighted with this funding result; it’s a terrific endorsement of our technology and a clear signal that the UK public is hugely supportive of seeing tidal energy brought into the domestic and global energy mixes,” Orbital Marine Power’s chief executive Andrew Scott said.

“The whole team at are excited to be moving forward with this flagship project and deliver the first O2 unit for costs similar to offshore wind, and so to provide the basis for a new and sustainable industry.”

Waves of change

The announcement from Orbital Marine Power comes shortly after the company’s SR2000 turbine, which was launched in 2016, was found to have generated more power in its first year of operation than the entire wave and tidal energy sectors in Scotland did from 2004-15.

The device, based at the EMEC in Orkney, generated 3GWh of renewable electricity over the 12-month period.

Looking to the future, UK is primed to lead Europe’s £46bn wave energy market opportunity. Research from Marine Power Systems estimates that estimated global wave resources could potentially reach 4,000TWh annually provided the commercial case for the technology improves.

Similarly, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult has claimed that the tidal stream industry could generate a net cumulative benefit to the UK of £1.4bn, supporting nearly 4,000 jobs by 2030. Recent research from the body concluded that tidal stream costs could eventually fall from £300/MWh to less than £90/MWh, providing capacity can reach 1GW.

Nonetheless, progress to date has been mixed. The UK Government delivered a blow to the nation’s tidal energy sector last summer, when it announced that it would not back plans for Swansea’s pioneering tidal lagoon power plant. The decision was taken based on figures showing that nuclear and offshore wind can currently generate the same amount of electricity at a third of the cost.

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Ian Byrne says:

    It was a great disappointment about the Swansea tidal lagoon, but it’s a completely different technology (and scale) to the Orbital Power project that has just completed funding. The Orbital device floats above a tidal stream, that requires little fixed infrastructure (apart from cables and something to anchor it to the right spot), and produces energy comparable in amount to a wind turbine, rather than to a full scale power station. However it’s scalable and there are other sites around the UK coast – and internationally, of course, where this type of solution could be deployed.

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