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1.9GW potential in Pentland Firth

Report revises earlier estimates, 1GW identified as the most 'realistic' target

1.9GW potential in Pentland Firth image

The Pentland Firth has the potential to generate a maximum 1.9GW – equivalent to 16TWh per year - through tidal energy schemes, according to research led by Oxford University.

A report commissioned by the Energy Technologies Institute says the area between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands is one of the best tidal energy sites in Europe and could provide almost half of Scotland's electricity needs.

The 1.9GW figure is considerably lower than some early estimates, however, as it takes into account factors such as how many tidal turbines it would be feasible to build, how a series of turbines would interact with each other and averages out variations caused by tide cycles.

The researchers’ calculations also suggest that while the chances of extracting the first 500MW of energy are “very promising” the increasing difficulty of extracting more and more energy towards the maximum of 1.9GW means a target of 1GW is “most realistic”.

Dr Thomas Adcock, lead author of The Available Power from Tidal Stream Turbines in the Pentland Firth, said: “This study provides the first robust data about how much energy it would be feasible to extract.

“It also suggests that to be efficient any scheme would have to be ‘joined up’ so that, for example, individual tidal turbines do not cancel each other out and provisions are made to store the greater energy produced by spring tides and feed these back in at neap tides.”

He added that “building handfuls of tidal turbines in plots of ocean leased out to individual developers” is not going to extract the maximum energy.

RenewableUK wind and tidal energy development manager David Krohn hailed the study’s findings as confirmation that “Scotland’s potential for developing tidal power is amongst the highest in the world”.

The report is available here.

Image: estimates on the Pentland  Firth's generation potential have been downgraded (Caithness Chamber)

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