OpenHydro to deploy 200MW tidal energy farm off Scotland

16 Mar 2010

Young Irish green-tech firm OpenHydro along with utility provider SSE Renewables have won exclusive rights to develop a 200MW tidal energy farm in the Pentland Firth off the northern coast of Scotland.

The award was made by The Crown Estate in the UK, as part of a major announcement of the world’s first commercial wave and tidal energy leasing programme.

According to sources SSE Renewables is the former development arm of Irish electricity player Airtricity, enriching the Irish link to the deal which is understood to be worth between stg£3bn and stg£4bn. The company is led by Irishman Paul Dowling.

In 2008, OpenHydro became the world’s first company to deploy a tidal turbine directly on the ocean bed.

The Cantick Head site awarded to the OpenHydro and SSE joint venture lies within the Crown Estate’s Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Strategic Area, considered to be one of the world’s largest single tidal sites.

Securing the site is a major first step in delivering large-scale tidal energy to the UK; with this one project having the potential to provide 200MW or enough energy to power more than 130,000 homes.

OpenHydro and SSE Renewables, which is responsible for the development and construction of SSE’s renewable energy portfolio and which is a sister business of Ireland’s largest independent and greener energy utility Airtricity, have formed a joint venture company, Cantick Head Tidal Development Ltd.

The joint venture company will now be responsible for the development of the site. Over the next few years, the partners will be working closely with statutory bodies, local communities and other stakeholders to complete the required surveys prior to bringing forward an application to deploy the tidal turbines.

“Today’s development marks a major step forward for both OpenHydro and SSE Renewables and the marine renewable industry in general,” said James Ives, chief executive of OpenHydro.

“I have no doubt that this decision will provide a major first step in delivering tidal energy at utility scale onto the UK national grid. This development will also generate many further benefits for the local economy, including employment and valuable inward investment.

“We are very excited about further developing our presence in Scotland which will build on OpenHydro’s important research work that has been ongoing at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) since 2006,”

The 1.2GW of installed capacity proposed by the wave and tidal energy developers for 2020 shows the world that marine energy can produce meaningful amounts of electricity and offers a real alternative to conventional power production, the Roger Bright CB, chief executive of the Crown Estate.

“The long-term prospects for this growing industry are exceptionally bright, with vast amounts of untapped energy in the seas all around the UK. It will create new businesses and jobs, as well as attracting inward investment.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Sea deployment of OpenHydro’s tidal turbine

For more information on green technology, visit the The Green Economy – A Business & Leadership Briefing website.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years