Scottish tidal power plant smashes renewable energy records

SR 2000

A tidal energy turbine off the coast of Orkney is generating more power than the rest of Scotland’s wave & tidal sector combined!

The Scotrenewables SR2000 was installed in 2017 in the sea near the small island of Eday. Its 2MW turbine has so far produced around three gigawatt-hours of electricity. It has produced more power in a 12 month period than every other wave & tidal project in Scotland put together.

Andrew Scott, CEO of Scotrenewables Tidal Power, described it as a “phenomenal result”.

Innovative approach

Unlike older tidal power plants – which look a little like wind turbines attached to the seabed – the SR2000 floats on the surface like a boat, with turbines hanging underneath it. This makes it easier to repair & maintain, as the parts are more easily accessible.

SR 2000
2 large turbines hang down underneath the boat-like structure. Image from Scotrenewables.

Mr Scott said: “We’ve taken a very novel approach and we believe we’ve got a very disruptive technology in that space.”

The Orkney islands are home to just over 20,000 people, and the SR2000 can provide around 7% of their electricity needs on a typical day – but has been known to provide over a quarter of demand on a good day.

The owners of the project say the technology is still in its infancy, but estimate that one day projects like this could supply up to 20% of the UK’s power needs.

Renewable energy leader

Scotland is one of the biggest users of renewable energy in Europe. New figures have placed them fourth in the EU, with 54% of its electricity coming from renewable sources.

Tidal power could meet ‘one third of global electricity needs’, says academic study

tidal power

In theory, one third of the world’s electricity needs could be supplied using tidal power, according to a state-of-the-art research paper from Bangor University.

The researchers from the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University estimated that 5,792 terawatt hours could be produced by tidal power plants around the world. At present 90% of tidal power projects are located in just 5 countries, with the majority in France and the UK – one of the largest being the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project in South Wales.

The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project. Image source: tidallagoonpower.com

Tidal power is low carbon and extremely predictable, capturing kinetic energy from rising and falling tides and using it to generate electricity. The British Isles are in an ideal position to harness tidal power, with several areas of high tidal range – the vertical difference between the water level at low and high tide.

Dr Simon Neill, the lead author of the study, explains “tidal lagoons are attracting national and international attention, with the 2017 publication of the government commissioned ‘Hendry Review’, which assessed the economic case for tidal lagoon power plants, and suggested that a ‘Pathfinder’ project in Swansea Bay could be the start of a global industry. Geographically, the UK is in an ideal position, containing many regions of large tidal range as a result of the resonant characteristics of this part of the European shelf seas.”

Tidal power is attractive for many reasons, although it doesn’t come without its challenges – as Dr Sophie Ward explains: “Although tidal lagoons will likely be less intrusive than tidal barrages (which tend to span entire estuaries), they require careful design and planning to minimize the impact on the local environment. With significant global potential for tidal range power plants, we need to closely monitor environmental consequences of extracting energy from the tides, and be cautious of altering natural habitats by building structures and impounding water in lagoons or behind barrages.”

There are several types of tidal power plants – including tidal barrages, tidal lagoons and underwater turbines. Although it has huge potential for generating clean, renewable energy, tidal power is currently lagging behind wind and solar energy due to relatively high setup costs and the limited number of coastal sites where it can be generated.

Watch the short video below to learn more: