Edinburgh's Simec Atlantis Energy powers ahead with Caithness tidal scheme

Simec Atlantis Energy, the Edinburgh-headquartered sustainable power developer, has hailed the “best operating results ever” at its flagship MeyGen tidal project in the Pentland Firth.

Chief executive Tim Cornelius is also eyeing plans for a major data centre. Picture: Jon Savage
Chief executive Tim Cornelius is also eyeing plans for a major data centre. Picture: Jon Savage

Posting first-half results, which revealed a rise in revenue but widening losses, the firm said the project had now exported in excess of 21 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity to the national grid with the tidal array operating at above 90 per cent availability factor during 2019.

At the group’s Uskmouth power station conversion project in Wales, the initial stage of the front end engineering design was completed during the first half and a contract tender has been issued for the design, supply, installation and commissioning of the full combustion system. The conversion project remains on track to begin operations by 2021, Atlantis noted.

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Chief executive Tim Cornelius said the performance of the MeyGen project during 2019 was “testament to our investment and belief in the commercial scale prospects of tidal power to date”.

He told investors: “We now look forward to working with government and industry to deliver the next phases of MeyGen in partnership with world leading data centre operators and the local community in Caithness.

“Both MeyGen and the Uskmouth project have created remarkable opportunities for the Atlantis team to forge new paths and demonstrate leadership in innovation and delivery of solutions for some of the challenges which face society today whilst at the same time creating near and long term shareholder value.”

The interim results showed that revenue rose to £2 million from £1.3m a year earlier – the majority from MeyGen power sales.

Losses before tax for the six months to the end of June amounted to £12.4m, up from £9.1m. The group noted that the increase related mainly to the consolidation of Simec Uskmouth Power from June last year.

The consolidated group cash position at the end of June 2019 stood at £5.1m, compared with £9.3m at the tail end of 2018.

Cornelius added: “The Uskmouth conversion is making good progress and it is a privilege to be involved in such a flagship project.

“This conversion addresses two major societal issues; firstly, the increasing demand for electricity and secondly the productive use of non-recyclable waste destined for landfill. Uskmouth tackles these issues whilst maintaining and creating jobs in south east Wales.”

Earlier this month, the firm unveiled plans to build what would be the world’s largest ocean-powered data centre, in the north of Scotland.

Atlantis said the vast Caithness facility could be operational by 2024. Power for the data centre would include electricity supplied via a private network from turbines at the MeyGen project.

Cornelius said: “Data is being touted as the new oil. It is arguably becoming the world’s most valuable resource, and the amount of data requiring storage is increasing at a staggering pace.

“However, data centres are undeniably power-hungry, and the clients of data centre operators are rightly demanding power be sourced from renewable and sustainable sources.”