A giant turbine floating in the seas off Orkney has been hailed as a “phenomenal” success after generating more electricity in a single year than Scotland’s entire wave and tidal sector did before it.
The SR2000, a 63m-long device which harnesses the power of the seas using submerged rotors, was launched in 2016 and installed west of Eday in August last year.
It has since generated three gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from almost continuous operation, enough to power around 830 households across the UK for a year.
This is far more successful than the 30 different prototypes tested by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney in the 12 years before the SR2000 was launched.
Between them, those projects only generated 2.8 GWh of electricity. The SR2000’s developers, Scotrenewables Tidal Power, said it had set a “new benchmark” for the tidal industry.
At times during its first year, the floating device’s 2MW turbine has been supplying more than a quarter of the electricity demand of the Orkney Islands.
Older prototypes involved machines similar to wind turbines being fixed to the seabed, but the SR2000 floats on the surface and has rotors hanging below, taking advantage of tidal currents. Although it is visible from the sea’s surface, this design makes it easier and cheaper for engineers to carry out maintenance tasks, as its moving parts are far more accessible. The development is the latest sign that tidal energy has significant untapped potential in meeting Scotland’s energy needs. Four tidal turbines deployed in the Pentland Firth after the launch of the SR2000 have since gone on to generate more than 8 GWh of electricity in their first year.
“This milestone for the tidal energy industry truly demonstrates the untapped potential of this emerging sector,” said Hannah Smith, senior policy manager at trade body Scottish Renewables. Scotland’s remarkable marine energy resource has placed us front and centre in developing this industry with global potential.
“To keep driving progress it’s critical that both Scottish and UK Governments recognise the potential of these technologies and work with industry to fully commercialise these innovations.”