UK tidal energy company, Marine Current Turbines, is targeting 2013 to install Scotland’s first tidal energy farm. The company, which designed and deployed the world’s first commercial scale offshore tidal stream energy system in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough, is investigating the feasibility of a tidal farm in Kyle Rhea, a strait of water between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland.
The project will have the capacity to generate electricity for up to 4,000 homes in the Highlands & Islands by harnessing the power of the fast tidal currents that pass through Kyle Rhea 14 hours a day. It will also give a multi-million pound boost to the Highlands & Islands economy as local businesses can expect to participate in the tidal farm’s installation, operation and maintenance.
The development of the project is subject to securing a lease agreement from The Crown Estate, securing planning approval from Marine Scotland (part of the Scottish Government) and raising the finance for the project. Marine Current Turbines (MCT) estimates that the cost of the 5MW Kyle Rhea scheme, consisting of four SeaGen tidal units, will be £35million.
For the past nine months, MCT has undertaken a series of environmental and technical studies and consulted a range of local and national organisations. The work to date has confirmed the suitability of the site and subject to further studies being carried out and further consultations, MCT aims to submit a planning application towards the end of next year (2011).
MCT, with the support of the environmental consultancy Royal Haskoning (based in Edinburgh), has already consulted a range of organisations about its plans including the Highland Council and local councillors, Marine Scotland, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the Northern Lighthouse Board, the RSPB, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Glenelg and Arnisdale Development Trust and the RNLI based at Kyle of Lochalsh.
David Ainsworth, MCT’s Project Manager for the Kyle Rhea project, said: “Engagement with local interests is an important part of our work and so far the response to our plans has been generally positive. Our experience of working in Strangford Lough has been hugely valuable in taking forward our plans for Kyle Rhea, and has helped assure people about the impacts of deploying our technology. Next year, we will hold a public exhibition in Glenelg before our planning application is finalised to give local people the opportunity to find out more about the project and the benefits that it will bring.”
If the Kyle Rhea tidal project is approved and financed, the scheme will not only generate clean energy but also give local firms the chance to be involved in the tidal farm’s installation and operation. In Northern Ireland, a number of local companies such as marine support vessels, engineering and electrical contractors, civil engineers, environmental scientists and divers as well as local hotels, pubs and restaurants have benefited from MCT’s Strangford Lough project. It is estimated that the project has contributed more than £4million into the Northern Irish economy over the past three years.
As well as retaining the services of Royal Haskoning (with regard to consultations with the regulatory authorities and the environmental studies), other Scottish firms that have been being involved in the project to date are the Aberdeen office of Partrac and SMRU Ltd based in St Andrews. Scotland’s Burntisland Fabrications constructed the quadropod structure that supports the single SeaGen in Strangford Lough.