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Timetable is revealed for tidal energy project

John O'Groat Journal

The world’s largest tidal energy project will begin taking shape in the Pentland Firth, off the Caithness coast, in January.

Meygen will initiate work on their Pentland Firth project in the New Year, with the aim of completing work on the demonstration turbines in 2017. The firm’s chief executive, Dan Pearson, recently held a public meeting at Mey Hall detailing the installation plans and timescale. Mr Pearson confirmed the four demonstration turbines are expected to be operational by February 2017. The firm are also setting up a project office in Caithness, with consent to construct three buildings, this will coincide with the beginning of onshore works for the project at the Ness of Quoys, near Gills Bay, with Scottish Southern Electric (SSE) laying cables from Hastigrow to the site.

July will see the initiation of the project’s offshore work, as this provides the calmest weather which is needed to install the cables. Over the following months, Meygen plan to install the foundation structures for the turbines, which they aim to complete by the end of 2015. The first of the turbines is to be installed by March 2016, with all four demonstration turbines installed by October 2016, and operational by February the following year.

“The beauty of tidal power is it’s invisible but there was a school of thought where we wanted to make something that was a tourist attraction as it was the world’s biggest tidal energy project” said Mr Pearson. “Then we looked at it the other way and as the buildings got smaller, we decided the emphasis of the buildings should be low impact, which we think should be the way forward.

“If we are going to build more of these, we should demonstrate how to hide these rather than how to make them noticed. We thought about making the building a tourist attraction, but at the end of the day, it is still a power station and there would be health and safety issues. That doesn’t mean it should be a low quality building. If we could create an information centre at John O’Groats to show people what the project is about rather than making it an architectural feature, this may be a better way of promoting the project.

“We have already spoken to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Natural Retreats about what we could do to promote the project near to its close proximity, to educate people about our project whilst having a low impact on the environment.”

Mr Pearson estimates that 50 people will be employed during the installation of the four turbines. If the demonstration phase is a success, there are plans to add an extra eight turbines by 2018, before then adding 20 to 30 turbines every year until the first phase is completed, which will see 61 turbines being installed by 2020.
Meygen plans to employ 10 permanent staff to carry out maintenance work on the project once all 269 turbines are installed, which will produce enough power to supply approximately 175,000 homes.