Scotland Aims to Be the "Saudi Arabia of Marine Energy" With Tide and Wave Power

By Smriti Rao | March 17, 2010 11:04 am


Scotland is getting ready to capitalize on something the country has plenty of: fierce, stormy waves.

About 750,000 Scottish homes expect to be powered by ocean technology by 2020, as the Scottish Government announced that 10 wave and tide power schemes capable of generating up to 1.2GW in total would be built around the Orkney islands and on the Pentland Firth on the northern coast of the Scottish mainland [Guardian]. The 10 projects will comprise the world’s first commercial-scale wave and tidal power scheme. With this project, Scotland plans to produce the same amount of clean energy as a small nuclear power station, and hopes to start on a path to becoming the “Saudi Arabia of marine energy.”

Some of the strongest tidal currents in the world race around UK shores and there’s some of the highest energy in the waves that roll in from the Atlantic. And while wave power is, to an extent, dependent on the weather, tidal power has the tremendous advantage of being totally predictable [Channel 4].

It will cost about $7.6 billion in total to install and maintain the structures used to generate power from the strong waves and tides, and to transmit the energy back to land. The bulk of the work will be done by three major power firms: E.ON, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) Renewables, which already operates the UK’s largest hydro schemes, and Scottish Power Renewables, a heavy investor in windfarms, in joint ventures with four of the UK’s leading marine energy firms [Guardian].

Click through the photo gallery to see the wave and tidal devices that will soon get their try-outs in the cold, turbulent waters off the Scottish coast.

Image: flickr / jack_spellingbacon

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Photo Gallery, Technology
  • Winter

    What is the ROI time period?

  • YouRang

    Tidal power might be more predictable than wave power, but neither one is particularly constant so energy storage is still a huge problem. And the environmental problem of disrupting the life cycle of animals is worse for tidal power than for wave power. And neither one allows for the cleansing effect of waves. I’m not sure that the human implementation of “every valley shall be exalted and every hill made low” was what Isaiah had in mind.

  • Brian Too

    I still think that the tidal & wave zones are a tough, tough place to put mechanical equipment. Salt water, relentless pounding by the waves, sometimes your hardware is above water, marine fouling, storms, galvanic corrosion, the whole setup is rough.

    It’s no accident that lifeforms living in this zone are small and very hardy. Think mussels, seaweed, anemones, snails, limpets, starfish, sea urchins. Nothing bigger than a toaster (well, maybe the seaweed).

    However someone may crack the problem and it’s good to see someone try. Kudos to the Scots going for it!

  • Fay Lovecraft

    it seems like a good idea as long as it deosn’t bother the wildlife. it also seems that europe is the only country thinking of alternative energy sources in ernest.

  • Mike

    As far as disrupting the local environment and creatures…..I don’t think there is anything we can ever do for energy, or food, etc that will not disrupt, kill, or displace something. It’s unavoidable. I think an idea like this, if it works out, is far superior to oil extraction, mountain top removal, etc – and all the junk and ecological disruption those cause! If we like sitting in a nice chair, eating some good food, looking at these lighted screens, making a call on our Iphones, then something/area is going to have be disrupted in order for us to have that.

    I think that is fine, I see nothing wrong with using Earths resources and its creatures. The problem is with abuse, sloppiness, ignorance (of biological systems) and overuse of these resources with little thought as to long term sustainability of the population and ecosystems. I think we have the potential for a utopian balance….but greed, religion, cultural wars, overpopulation, etc prevent us from rising to our full potential and capable balance.

  • Uncle B

    Smaller, lighter, mentally quicker, and light on the meat in comparison to the Yankees who judge these things from hegemony and xenophobia to be sure, the Scots may have a real solution, for Scots at any rate. This may leave the Great Hulking American Neanderthal scratching his head, but for the smaller distances traveled on Scottish roads, and the very different lifestyle, this much power is an abundance. Cultural differences must be included in these very positive Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, and Geothermal Electric Power articles for the liquid fueled Yankee audience, for them to get the point. Scotland also bio-gases humanure and offal into consumer gas and fertilizer? What may appear to be inadequate fueling for the American Dream lifestyle may be and abundance for other cultures, and therein lies the basis for misrepresentations of articles like this!

  • John Dale

    Yo, Uncle b, there r a lot of green enthusiasts in America, who r upset about our governments lack of 4site into wind/solar technology. Don’t lump us all together w/ all the religious wack jobs Tea party nuts. We could just as easily say the Scots r a bunch of sexist a** hole, poorly fitted denture mumblers like Sean Connery. Like Europe has been such a f***ing mecca of environmental bliss, attempting in the last century to colonize the world. Don’t even get me started on the damn skirts.

    [Moderator’s note: edited the cuss words.]

  • Greg

    Winter – looks like the capital recovery on the pelamis commercial installation will be about US$0.19/kWhr – this is above the current US retail power purchase rate and perhaps 3 times the current US bulk wind power purchase rate. Their data indicates that they will get US$0.31/kWhr for the Aqucadoura project so with special purchase rates, company should do quite well.
    Unk – US leads the world in installed windpower (not scotland), is number 3 in hydroelectricity installed capacity, ….. Germany and the southern European countries are leading the solar world with very very high bulk solar purchase rates, US leads in geothermal power, ….. I think it is great that Scotland enjoys the locations to employ wave/tide technologies and has the resources to pay for the commercialization of each – much of the US does not have the high energy coastlines of Scotland/Shetlands so cannot deploy these – Alaska has several times the potential capacity of scotland but the distance from the potential use areas makes installations there uneconomic

  • Jennifer Angela

    More power to you Scottland!!!

    Who cares if they really are NUMBER ONE in the end? Though frankly, I HOPE they will be! At the end of the day what REALLY matters is… the more countries make use of alternative energy sources, the cleaner and better our planet gets! Remember Tschernobyl? We don´t want THAT to happen again, do we?!

    I would love to read about the extended use of solar energy in warm countries!

  • Nick Cassalia

    it looks to be a good idea and also effective if if doesnt negivtily effect the water envoirment or the wildlife. also it seems like it could inspire other parts of the world to be more efficiant with their power sorces

  • ryan stacy

    This sounds like a great idea and doesn’t seem like there’s anything negative about it. Sure, it might cost a lot in the beginning, but in the end, they will be saving money, and power, and ultimatly helping the world out by not putting up another nuclear power plant. The ocean is one of the last things we have not yet used as a source of power and i think its great that Scottland’s setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.

  • S . Donato

    The US presently gets 15% of it’s electric power from Hydro-electric generation and we are using only .05% of it’s potential. Simple arithmetic indicates that a solution to our energy problem seems right at hand.

  • denture adhesives man

    i think it is a very hard jop to install power turbines in such a strong waves. also we have to thing about the effect of such a trend in the biological system as the high megnatic field which will be formed may affect the ocean biological system.

  • R. Carlson

    The equiptment is ready and proven in the Gulf of Mexico by a companyin USA.
    NO pouliton. Use wave action only.

  • Doug Watts

    The US presently gets 15% of it’s electric power from Hydro-electric generation and we are using only .05% of it’s potential. Simple arithmetic indicates that a solution to our energy problem seems right at hand.

    Every bit of the U.S. hydro power generation comes at the expense of species now in danger of extinction due to hydropower. Check out the Columbia River. How green is that? Take the blinders off.

  • John Hebbe

    Current information suggests that untold numbers of species remain to be discovered. Is this to say that all environmentally sensitive projects should be halted to protect these unknown denizens? You may be referring to the Tellico Dam/Snail Darter problem eventually settled by relocating (successfully) the fish. The Endangered Species Act was written to protect such glories of nature as the wolf, the eagle and other treasures. It was not meant to be a tool of extremists with wholly different motives who choose to apply this act for meanly obstructive means. Put your glasses on.

  • http://Spailboatspeedsailcrafts don goudriaan

    hello automatic persons
    please notify yourself of Spailboat.

    this is the energy machine. it uses wind and waves and transfers them directly into energy, via movement, via scoops, working with respect to the water.

    ir donald goudriaan

  • sapatilhas puma

    Current information suggests that untold numbers of species remain to be discovered. Is this to say that all environmentally sensitive projects should be halted to protect these unknown denizens? You may be referring to the Tellico Dam/Snail Darter problem eventually settled by relocating (successfully) the fish.

  • Mark Lewis

    Hey I’m a big fan of your blog. Thanks for making it. :)


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar

Login to your Account

E-mail address:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »