With a year to go until Scotland votes over its future as part of the UK, the country’s government has approved the largest tidal power array in Europe, capable of powering the equivalent of 42,000 homes.
The six tidal turbines will be placed between the Orkney Islandsand the mainland in the north, in the Pentland Firth channel, with the government giving the green light to the massive development.
The project will be fully completed by 2020. Scottish firmMeyGen said when operational, it will power 40% of homes in the Highlands.
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said the project was a crucial step to meet the country’s climate targets.
“We must tackle climate change”, he said.
“We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through better and more efficient uses of energy. Marine energy – a home-grown technology with huge potential – is part of the solution.”
Meanwhile, environmental groups have welcomed the announcement. Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said, “This is great news for renewable energy in Scotland. Harnessing the huge energy in the tides of the Pentland Firth is a major engineering challenge but this scheme will prove technologies and techniques which will be important in future tidal energy schemes around the world”.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks added that the approval of the project was good news, but more should be done to improvethe transmission of energy to the mainland.
“There is little point in generating huge amounts of marine renewable energy on Scotland’s islands if it cannot also be got to the mainland”, Banks said.
“We now need UK and Scottish ministers to find a way forward that enables us to harness the full potential of this clean energy source.”
In July, a study suggested that the fast currents in Pentland Firth could produce enough electricity to power half of Scotland every year.