World first as Scottish tidal turbines connect to grid

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A pioneering green energy project in the far north of Scotland has become the world’s first fully operational grid-connected ‘baseload’ tidal power station.

The move comes after tidal turbines in the sea off Shetland were integrated with cutting edge battery storage from international tech firm Tesla to enable a predictable supply of renewable energy to be fed into the network.

The 300-kilowatt scheme, owned by Edinburgh-based Nova Innovation, has produced 30 megawatt-hours of electricity since going online at the beginning of this month.

The three-turbine array has the capacity to power around 200 homes, but the firm has plans to double the size of the scheme after securing £272,600 of Scottish Government funding.

Chief executive Simon Forrest said: “By storing the clean energy generated by the natural ebb and flow of the tide, we can control the supply of electricity to the grid to match demand. This creates a consistent source of completely predictable power from a clean, sustainable resource.”

Linking tidal turbines with energy storage improves reliability of supply, cuts emissions and helps balance electricity production and demand.

The certainty of the tide and the six-hour generation cycle times makes the Bluemull Sound scheme an ideal partner for energy storage.

Announcing the new funding, Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “This project will utilise both renewable tidal technology and battery storage from one of the world’s pioneers of battery storage, Tesla, to overcome the challenges of current grid constraints and to enable the improved, uninterrupted, provision of low-carbon energy.”

He added: “By undertaking this work in Scotland, we can also play a key role in helping inform the sustainable 
decarbonisation of energy for communities across the world.”

Environmentalists have described the scheme as the “holy grail” of eco-friendly energy generation.

“It’s great that the Scottish Government has backed this project and we hope it inspires politicians and others with the confidence to provide further support for ground-breaking technologies to cut climate pollution, said WWF Scotland acting director Sam Gardner.

Its ability to deliver baseload generation – steady, constant power – means the technology has the potential to displace nuclear and coal generation.