A 680-metric-ton tidal turbine dubbed “the most powerful in the world” has begun generating grid-connected power at the European Offshore Energy Center in Orkney, an archipelago north of mainland Scotland.
The news marks another major step forward for the UK’s nascent offshore energy sector.
In an announcement on Wednesday, Scottish engineering firm Orbital Marine Power outlined how a 2-megawatt O2 turbine has been installed in a body of water called Fall of Warness.
The company said the turbines, which are 74 metres, are expected “to operate in the waters off Orkney for the next 15 years and will have the capacity to meet the annual electricity demand of around 2,000 homes in the UK”.
The turbine is also set to send power to a ground-based electrolyzer that will generate what’s called green hydrogen. In a statement, Orbital Marine Power CEO Andrew Scott called Wednesday’s news a “major O2 milestone.”
Funding for the construction of the O2 came from public lenders through investing in abundance. The Scottish government has also provided 3.4 million pounds (about $4.72 million) in support through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund.
Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for the Scottish Government, said on net zero, energy and transport that his country is “in an ideal position to harness the massive global market for marine energy”.
“The deployment of O2 from Orbital Marine Power’s, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a elated moment for Scotland and a milestone in our journey to net zero,” he added.
Looking to the coming, Orbital Marine Power said it was “set its sights” on commercializing its technology through the deployment of multi-megawatt arrays.
With miles of coastline, the UK as a whole is home to a number of offshore energy related projects.
In April, it was announced that a year-lengthy research project focused on the potential of floating tidal, wave and wind technology had received support from Marine-i, a program focused on innovation in areas such as marine energy.
The project will be based on the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off the southwest coast of England, and led by the Isles of Scilly Community Venture, Planet A Energy and Waves for Power.
There is also potential when it comes to rivers. Back in March, the Port of London Authority gave the go-ahead for tidal power technology trials on a part of the Thames, a move that could eventually aid decarbonize river-connected operations.
While interest in marine power systems appears to be increasing, the current footprint of the industry and its technologies remains little.
Figures from Ocean Energy Europe show that only 260 kW of tidal current capacity was added in Europe final year, while only 200 kW of wave power was installed.
By contrast, 2020 saw the installation of 14.7 gigawatts of wind capacity in Europe, according to industry body WindEurope.