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A new world record for tidal power generation

Posted by Louisa Clarke on 11 September 2017 at 10:30 am

As many of you will know, we love keeping up to date with advances in renewable energy. At the end of August, the Pentland Firth tidal project in Scotland broke the world record for monthly electricity production by tidal power. The MeyGen project developed by the marine power generators ‘Atlantis’ produced more than 700MWh of electricity in August, the most that tidal power has ever produced in a month.

The underwater turbines that harness tidal energy are located in Pentland Firth, a strait between Orkney Islands and Caithness in North Scotland. Tidal flows between the Atlantic and North Sea are some of the most powerful on Earth, and have huge potential in generating tidal power. A study by Oxford and Edinburgh Universities showed that these tidal flows have the potential to power nearly half of Scotland’s electricity needs. 

The MeyGen marine project is still only in its initial phases, but the project’s great potential is already shown by the broken records. Tidal power is one of the most predictable and least obtrusive forms of renewable energy, so could this form of green energy production be about to take off?

In August the electricity generated was enough to power 2000 Scottish homes from just two tidal turbines. This is only the first stage of the development, and the Director of Project Delivery for MeyGen said that they expect to continue to break records throughout the rest of the year. Atlantis predicts that phase 1, built with financial support by the Scottish Government, will reach full capacity (6MW) this year, and the final phase will have 61 turbines with a capacity of 86MW.  Performance of this tidal energy project will improve with future installations, and could provide electricity to a significant number of households in Scotland.

WWF Scotland’s Acting Director Sam Gardner welcomes this news, saying: “This is a sign that Scotland is really making progress in harnessing the power of our seas and that we’re on our way to securing a low carbon future”. With the European Union’s target of 15% renewable energy generation by 2020, we could be getting closer to this with the expansion of this renewable energy source in the UK.

This is not the first record set by tidal power in Scotland. Last year Nova Innovation’s tidal project in Bluemull Sound (north of Shetland), was the first tidal energy project in the world to export electricity to the national grid. It was the world’s first operational tidal power project. In 2016 hydropower, which includes tidal power, only made up 6% of total renewable energy generation in the UK. With the recent progress of tidal power in the UK, we have reason to be optimistic that tidal power will be set to make a greater contribution to our clean energy production in the future. 


Image credit: slynkycat

About the author: Louisa is a summer volunteer at The National Energy Foundation working primarily on the SuperHomes project. She is in her second year of studying Geography at Birmingham and is passionate about renewable energy and sustainability-related issues. 

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