Scotland’s Green Goal: Become World Champions in Tidal Water Technology

Andrew McDonald is one of the local forefighters for tidal power.

TEXT, PHOTO and VIDEO Charlotte Boström

Scotland is described as the Saudi Arabia of marine energy. The goal is to become world famous for tidal and wave power. Outside the isle of Islay the biggest tidal energy projects ever are just about to be installed.

“The beauty of tidal is that it is so predictable. It is more reliable than other renewable energy sources and you cannot see them above the water surface,” Andrew McDonald states as the most unique advantage of tidal energy.

McDonald is working for the local organisation Islay Energy Trust. His task is to encourage energy companies to develop green energy on Islay outside the southwest coast of Scotland.

If everything goes according to plan ten massive energy turbines will be put on the seabed in the sound between the islands Islay and Jura. They will generate electricity for over 5 000 households.

Good Natural Conditions

World famous for its whisky distilleries, the island with 4 000 inhabitants has recently been more noticed for the ongoing biggest tidal project in the world.

Twice a day the water level in the sound rises by around three meters because of the gravitational effect of the sun and the moon. This creates underwater streams that will be used to create electricity. Moving up to three meters per second the streams in the sound of Islay are considered to be extraordinarily fast.

Awaiting Permit from the Government

Scottish Power Renewables is the company running the project. Different governmental bodies, environmental and marine organisations are about to approve the installation of the devices. Probably this will be done by the end of this year, so the devices can be installed in 2012.

Good Opportunities

Scotland in general has great potential for tidal energy. And the British and Scottish governments have big plans to utilize the power from the sea.

“We should be world leading in wind power already. We have great opportunities but the UK and Scottish government just did not invest, so other countries like Denmark and Germany took the lead,” Duncan Mc Laren says, chief executive on the environmental organization Friends of the Earth in Edinburgh.

“Little impact on animal life”

Environmentalists have been complaining that the tidal devices are disturbing the marine environment and the life for fishes, shellfish and seabirds. But according to Duncan McLaren of Friends of the Earth, there is very little negative impact on the animal life.

“It is true that the tidal devices will have some impact on crabs and lobsters, but not on fishes or seabirds. The fishermen’s organizations have been very negative towards the ongoing projects, but actually there are no big reasons for this,” he says.

Important for the Community

Just like all smaller island Islay is suffering from an ageing population. Young people move away to get educated and they do not come back since there are no qualified jobs. But potentially the tidal power project can be beneficial for the small island society.

“It can make Islay famous and probably a research centre for marine energy can be set up here since this is such a huge project. That would both bring tourists here and create jobs for well-educated and younger people,” Andrew McDonald on Islay Energy Trust says.

Tidal Energy on Islay

> In the sound of Islay the tidal streams reach a speed of three meters per second during peak flow. During slack water there is no flow and no electricity can be generated.
> From the projects on Islay the average output will be enough to supply over 5 000 households according to calculations by Scottish Power Renewables. This covers the whole electricity consumption on Islay, including domestic and industrial use.

On the seabed between the islands Islay and Jura the ten tidal devices are planned to be placed.

The ten tidal devices are planned to be placed on the sea bed between the islands Islay and Jura.

EU and Governmental Goals
> Tidal power could supply at least 10 percent of the UK’s electricity if fully exploited according to the UK government’s sustainable development commission.
> Tidal power is a prioritized and increasingly subsidized industry in the UK. It is considered important in order to cut the greenhouse gasses emissions to meet the EU targets.
> The UK goal is to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses by 34 percent by year 2020 compared to 1990 levels.
> The Scottish government aims to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions in Scotland by 42 percent in 2020 according to the Scottish climate change act. The goal is to become “world leading in wave and tidal power”.

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