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Tidal energy venture gets assurance of support

Caithness Courier

The UK government has given an assurance it will back the pioneering MeyGen tidal energy project in the Pentland Firth.

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, pledged his support to the scheme this week after far north MP John Thurso raised fears there may have been procedural "hiccups" over a deadline for funding of the project.

Speaking in the Commons last week, he stressed the importance of the 400 megawatt development to the area and wanted to know what the UK government is doing to ensure it happens.

"One of the most important industries for both inward investment and to enable export of technology in the future is the marine renewable energy sector. In this regard the MeyGen deployment in the Pentland Firth is vital. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Energy Minister and the Crown Estate, to ensure this deployment goes ahead as planned?," he asked.

Mr Carmichael said he is keen to ensure "no procedural difficulties" will prevent the MeyGen scheme from going ahead. He has had discussions on the issue with the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Crown Estate and is sure "a positive outcome" will be achieved soon.

After the debate during Scottish Questions, John Thurso said: "Licensing of the Pentland Firth by the Crown Estate was a vital step in helping to support the renewable energy sector and create jobs in Caithness. The award of the licence to MeyGen and the forthcoming deployment by MeyGen are landmark steps in fulfilling that promise.

"My understanding is that there may have been hiccups and I have therefore been in touch with both the Secretary of State for Energy and for Scotland to make sure that those barriers are removed and I am delighted to know that a good outcome is anticipated."

Dan Pearson, the chief executive of MeyGen, told the Caithness Courier the company is "working really hard" with funders to "get the project over the line."

"We are making positive progress and should sign the deal off at some point over the summer. The project is looking good and is on schedule," he said.

A spokesman for the Crown Estate said: "We are still considering investment in wave and tidal first arrays and talking to a number of organisations about this possibility.

"These are confidential commercial discussions which we cannot comment on publicly. However we will continue to liaise broadly with government and industry to facilitate growth in key renewable energy sectors like offshore wind, wave and tidal stream."

MeyGen plans to install 400 turbines in the seabed between Stroma and the mainland with the first array of four demonstration turbines due to be in place by next summer.