“The most powerful tidal turbine in the world” begins to export electricity to the grid
A tidal turbine weighing 680 tonnes and dubbed “the most powerful in the world” has started grid-connected electricity generation at the European Marine Energy Center in Orkney, an archipelago north of mainland Scotland.
The news marks another big step forward for the nascent UK marine energy sector.
In an announcement on Wednesday, Scottish engineering firm Orbital Marine Power explained how its 2-megawatt O2 turbine was anchored in a body of water called Fall of Warness., with an undersea cable connecting it to a local onshore power grid.
The turbine, which is 74 meters long, is expected to “operate in the waters off the Orkney Islands for the next 15 years,” the company said, and “have the capacity to meet the annual demand of ‘electricity for around 2,000 UK households’.
The turbine is also configured to send energy to a terrestrial electrolyser which will produce so-called green hydrogen. In a statement, Orbital Marine Power CEO Andrew Scott described Wednesday’s news as “a milestone for O2.”
Funding for the construction of the O2 comes from public lenders through Abundance Investment. The Scottish government has also provided £ 3.4million (around $ 4.72million) in support through its Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund.
Michael Matheson, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, said his country was “ideally placed to tap into the huge global marine energy market”.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and an important step in our journey to net zero,” he added. .
Looking to the future, Orbital Marine Power has said it “aims” to commercialize its technology through the deployment of multi-megawatt networks.
With miles of coastline, the UK as a whole is home to a number of marine energy related projects.
In April, it was announced that a year-long research project focusing on the potential of tidal, wave and floating wind technology had won support from Marine-i, a program focused on innovation in areas such as than marine energy.
The project will be based on the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off the southwest coast of England, and led by Isles of Scilly Community Venture, Planet A Energy and Waves4Power.
There is also potential when it comes to rivers. In March, the Port of London Authority gave the green light for testing of tidal power technology on a section of the Thames, a move that could potentially help decarbonize river-related operations.
While interest in marine energy systems appears to be growing, the current footprint of the industry and its technologies remains small.
Figures from Ocean Energy Europe show that only 260 kilowatts of tidal capacity were added in Europe last year, while only 200 kW of wave energy was installed.
In contrast, 2020 saw 14.7 gigawatts of wind power capacity installed in Europe, according to industry body WindEurope.