Tidal power generators in the Pentland Firth could produce enough electricity to power half of Scotland every year, according to a new study.
University of Oxford researchers claim that underwater turbines installed in the narrow channel between Scotland and the Orkney Islands could generate up to 1.9 gigawatts (GW) of power.
However, these estimates are significantly lower than those made by past studies, one of which dubbed the area “the Scottish Saudi Arabia” because of its vast potential for clean energy generation.
The Pentland Firth is a strait known for its uncommonly strong and fast tides, making it ideal for a tidal power installation.
It was originally suggested that the body of water could generate as much as 10GW on an average day, enough to supply a quarter of the European Union’s daily need. The Scottish government states on its website that the country has 25% of European tidal potential.
However, the researchers found that a maximum capacity of 1.9GW would be possible with three rows of turbines. They concluded that building more than three would only marginally improve the power capacity as each row slows down the movement of the tides that pass through it.
Despite this, lead author of the report Dr. Thomas Adcock, said, “Pentland Firth promises to be one of the best sites in the world for tidal power.”
A similar project is planned at Swansea Bay on the south Wales coast. The proposed 240 megawatt (MW) tidal lagoon will offer power for over 120,000 homes – enough for 70% of Swansea Bay’s annual domestic electricity use.
Ioan Jenkins, development director of the project, told Blue & Green Tomorrow, “We believe that tidal power has a critical role to play in the energy mix.”
“We know that there is an available 10,000MW of potential sites in the UK alone that are suitable for tidal lagoon development. The Swansea project will hopefully be the first in a network of lagoons around the UK coastline, driving a critical change in our energy mix with low cost, low-carbon electricity sources that are sustainable long-term.”