Sea snakes ahoy! Plans unveiled for £60m Shetland wave-farm

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AMBITIOUS plans to put 26 huge snake-like wave-power machines in the water off Shetland will be announced today.

If successful, the project off Shetland's west coast will become the largest wave-power scheme in Scotland. More than two dozen 180-metre long red machines would float semi-submerged in the ocean, attached by cables to a junction on the seabed. A single seabed cable would link the devices to the shore.

The project would provide enough power for about 13,000 homes a year.

Pelamis Wave Power, based in Leith, and utility firm Vattenfall, which today opens an office in the capital, hope the 200-megawatt project will be built by 2014. The project, estimated to cost at least 60 million, has been called Aegir, after a sea god in Norse mythology.

Pelamis's second-generation "P-2" wave devices would be deployed. The first of the cutting-edge machines is being built in Leith.

There are plans to install this device at the European Marine Energy Centre off Orkney, before pressing ahead with the plans for the west coast of Shetland.

Permission is still required from Shetland Islands Council and the Crown Estate before the scheme can go ahead. It is also dependent on a planned subsea cable between Shetland and the mainland being constructed.

First Minister Alex Salmond, who will open the new Vattenfall office tonight, welcomed the announcement. He said: "It is clear that Scotland is now seen as the natural home for those who wish to develop and succeed in the marine renewable sector.

"Vattenfall's announcement of a joint-venture with Pelamis Wave Power is a significant vote of confidence in Scotland's huge marine energy potential."

One of Pelamis's 180-metre long wave-power machines is towed down the Firth of Forth during testing

Pelamis Wave Power chief executive Neels Kriek said he hoped the project would be a leading candidate for the Scottish Government's 10m Saltire Prize for commercially proven wave-power technology.

"We are delighted to be working with Vattenfall on this ground-breaking project, which we hope will be one of many," he added.

Dr Helmar Rendez, of Vattenfall, said: "The partnership with Pelamis allows us to work on developing a site that will prove very productive when we make wave power a commercial reality.

"We have big hopes for the future of wave power and see Scotland as a good place to do this."

Project manager Clare Lavelle added: "We will work closely with Shetland islanders to identify and develop the best possible project, because we recognise that this cannot be done without the support of the people and businesses of the Shetland Islands."