At a public meeting on Wednesday 2nd April, members of the community-owned Islay Energy Trust (“IET”) gave overwhelming support to the IET Board’s proposal to lead the development of Scotland’s first commercial-sized tidal energy project in collaboration with The Robert Gordon University (“RGU”), Aberdeen.
Sound of Islay
The proposed project is likely to consist of 4-6 turbine devices (total capacity around 2 MW) installed in the Sound of Islay. The development phases are expected to cost up to £750,000, and take around 3 years to complete. Once in operation, revenue would be generated from electricity sales.
It is estimated that marine energy could comprise around one-third of Scotland’s renewable energy resources; in particular, the seas around the Isle of Islay hold significant potential, second only to those around the Orkney Islands. Islay is already home to the world’s first commercial wave power station – Wavegen’s Limpet at Portnahaven. This new proposal to develop tidal resources will represent a major step forward in the commercialisation of tidal energy exploitation, which could ultimately generate sufficient electricity to supply around 5% of the UK’s demand. It will also make a contribution to meeting Scotland’s target of 50% of electricity demand from renewable energy resources by 2020, and could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 4000 tonnes per annum compared with the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation.
IET Chairman, Philip Maxwell, says: “A particular feature of this proposal is the innovative business model. Instead of the more conventional route involving a large energy utility company or turbine manufacturer, the Islay community is taking the initiative in leading the development of what is intended to be a commercially viable and strategically important project. IET wishes to ensure that any exploitation of the considerable tidal energy resources in the seas around the Isle of Islay yields substantial and sustainable benefits to the Islay community, as well as helping to provide greater energy security for the island by supplying around a quarter of its electricity demand.”
Dr Alan Owen of RGU’s School of Engineering said, “Tidal streams offer a substantial and predictable source of renewable energy and this is an area where RGU has specific expertise. The University is delighted to be involved in a project which has both national and international significance for the development of energy from tidal streams.”
IET and RGU will be consulting widely with stakeholders, including the Crown Estate, local fishermen, ferry operators Caledonian MacBrayne and Argyll and Bute Council, tidal technology developers, the Scottish and Westminster Governments, Scottish Natural Heritage, potential funders etc. It is hoped to complete the pre-feasibility study which will evaluate potential tidal resources, locate possible sites for the underwater turbines, and prepare for the environmental impact assessment by the end of this summer.
No decision has yet been taken on the type of technology to be installed. The process of selecting a suitable tidal device will be based on a set of technical, commercial and environmental criteria and subject to independent verification.