Tidal power in Scotland shows the way

waves

The recent decision by Scotland’s government to approve Europe’s largest tidal turbine project demonstrates a forward thinking attitude that should be noted by politicians in Northern Ireland. The Pentland Firth tidal turbine project is due to be constructed between now and 2020 and it is anticipated that it could generate enough electricity to power up to 42,000 homes. In Scotland, this is the equivalent of 40% of all Highland homes.

The impact of this project appears to be modest as well. The location of the proposed tidal turbines, in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth off the Caithness coast, will have an area of around 1.4 square miles. Compare this to the hundreds of boreholes that Rathln Energy anticipate placing across our north coast if they find viable reserves of oil or gas.

As the search for viable hydrocarbon resources in Northern Ireland continues, it should be mentioned that both the Minister for the Environment (Mark Durkin) and the Agriculture Minister (Michelle O’Neill) are opposed to fracking in Northern Ireland. Even if oil/gas exploration and extraction is confined to conventional processes there will be significant impacts to our rural landscapes and is likely to encounter public opposition.

North Antrim coastline

North Antrim coastline

Tidal energy would certainly be one of the preferable alternatives. Strangford Lough was the location of the world’s first tidal current energy turbine, which was installed in 2008, and has demonstrated that this kind of power generation is viable. Environmental monitoring has revealed that it can be installed and operated without any significant impact on the marine environment. In August of this year, Deep Green, a power generation device that operates in low velocity waters, was trialled in Strangford Lough also and results so far have been positive. It is anticipated that a full scale device will be grid-connected on a pre-commercial basis by 2015.

Sourcing energy for the future is an important issue and it requires imaginative thinking to provide low impact, sustainable, solutions. Let’s hope that the decision-makers of Northern Ireland are paying attention to the above-mentioned successes that are happening around them.

For more information on the The Pentland Firth tidal turbine project, visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24100811.

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