Island channel could power about half of Scotland, study shows

Jan 19, 2014

Renewable tidal energy sufficient to power about half of Scotland could be harnessed from a single stretch of water off the north coast of the country, engineers say.

Researchers have completed the most detailed study yet of how much could be generated by turbines placed in the Pentland Firth, between mainland Scotland and Orkney, and estimate 1.9 gigawatts (GW) could be available.

The in-depth assessment by engineers at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh offers valuable insights into how to develop and regulate this clean resource effectively.

The Pentland Firth is a prime candidate to house marine power projects because of its tidal currents, which are among the fastest in the British Isles.

Engineers say that their study improves on previous estimates of the generating capacity of turbines embedded in the Firth – ranging from 1 to 18 GW – which were too simplistic or based on inappropriate models. Researchers calculated that as much as 4.2 GW could be captured, but because are not 100 per cent efficient, they say that 1.9 GW is a more realistic target.

To exploit the Firth's full potential, turbines would need to be located across the entire width of the channel. In order to minimise the impacts on sea life and shipping trade, a number of individual sites have been identified for development by the UK Crown Estate, which will lease these sites to firms.

Researchers have pinpointed locations where turbines would need to be positioned for the Firth to meet its full energy production potential.

The research was commissioned and funded as part of the Energy Technologies Institute's Performance Assessment of Wave and Tidal Array Systems project (PerAWAT).

Professor Alistair Borthwick, of the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, who worked on the research, said: "Our research builds on earlier studies by analysing the interactions between turbines and the tides more closely. This is a more accurate approach than was used in the early days of tidal stream power assessment, and should be useful in calculating how much might realistically be recoverable from the Pentland Firth."

Professor Guy Houlsby of the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, said: "The UK enjoys potentially some of the best tidal resources worldwide, and if we exploit them wisely they could make an important contribution to our energy supply. These studies should move us closer towards the successful exploitation of the tides."

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User comments : 6

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The Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Jan 19, 2014
Still won't be able to power the TARDIS. Plus why worry? Britain has a couple hundred years worth of frackable natural gas.

Tally ho, chaps.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jan 20, 2014
Britain has a couple hundred years worth of frackable natural gas.

So why squander it and turn the countryside into a wasteland extracting it (and adding to greenhouse emissions)?
There's only downsides using gas compared to hydro.
hangman04
5 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2014
well, since both methods have a negative impact on the environment, the rational choice would be damage control. I am not sure which is able to come up with a cheaper MW if we add also investment costs but fracking should be the last choice always. Communities all over the world where it is used are confronted with negative effects which may (or may not) derive from mentioned activity.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jan 20, 2014
since both methods have a negative impact on the environment, the rational choice would be damage control

Really depends on what types of hydro you use. Bladeless (albeit less efficient) powerplants have a very limited impact on the environment.

If you look at the investments into fracking then that has dropped sharply (2014 down 50% from the levels of 2013. Compared to the all-time high of investments in 2011 investment was at a mere 10% in 2014). Sinking gas prices also limited profits.

Turns out fracking costs a lot more and delivers way less gas than the first, overly optimistic, numbers peddled by the gas/oil lobby had suggested. Who'd have thunk it?
praos
1 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2014
1.9 GW is capacity, what's load factor? All in all, it's probably less than equivalent of a single AP1000, which is almost environmentally neutral. Stop this green nonsense and grow up.
Huns
5 / 5 (1) Jan 21, 2014
1.9 GW is capacity, what's load factor? All in all, it's probably less than equivalent of a single AP1000, which is almost environmentally neutral. Stop this green nonsense and grow up.

I love nuclear power, but am inclined to agree with using tidal energy instead where practical. If something goes wrong with a turbine, it doesn't release radioactive material.