Electricity derived from the sun & the wind has long stood at the forefront of the green energy sector, but the attraction of a more predictable, inexhaustible resource has now shifted the industry focus towards tidal energy from the sea.
Tidal power has made a huge leap forward in recent years with a host of new technologies now being tried & tested. Did you know for example that the only commercial scale tidal turbine is already in place & generating 1.2 MW of electricity less than 40 miles away from the Isle of Man?
The underwater machine generates electricity and feeds it into the grid for an average of 20 hours a day and the operator ‘SeaGen’ have announced plans for four more units of 8MW capacity at Kyle Rhea, a strait of water between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland. An even larger project is a 10MW tidal array that SeaGen are planning to deploy off the Northwest coat of Anglesey, the company have already received preliminary consent to install seven twin rotor turbines which are on course to provide power for over 10,000 homes on the Welsh Island.
But SeaGen isn’t alone in the tidal energy race, Scottish Power Renewables is also moving forward with a £40M project in the Sound of Islay off the Scottish West coast. ScottishPower are looking to use the Norwegian Hammerfest Strom turbine design which has been generating power day in and day out in Norwegian waters for more than eight years now. Earlier last year the Scottish Government set a milestone for the development of tidal power with the approval of a project to install ten tidal turbines at 10MW capacity off the Scottish West coast – thus creating the largest tidal array in the World.
What has all this to do with the Isle of Man might be the question? The fact that in all of the above examples renewable electricity in going to be produced from nearby waters surely tells us something about the potential that exists here for energy from the sea. In David JC MacKay’s excellent book “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” he tells us that the short stretch of water between the Point of Ayre and the Mull of Galloway has the second highest recorded tidal flows around the entire UK. By capturing just a fraction of this predictable and carbon free energy could satisfy at a stroke the 15/15 renewables ambition passed by Tynwald.
With the Islands’ renewable energy future still undecided is it not the time for our political masters to take a much closer look at all of our options?