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Firth tidal turbine project is given the green light

John O'Groat Journal

A Caithness business leader yesterday hailed the go-ahead for the first commercial marine energy project in the Pentland Firth as "a significant milestone".

Trudy Morris, chief executive officer for Caithness Chamber of Commerce, was speaking after the Scottish Government granted permission to MeyGen Ltd to install marine turbines in the Inner Sound.

The company intends to build an initial demonstration array of up to six turbines, with construction starting in early 2014 and be commissioned in 2015. The array will provide valuable environmental data for the subsequent phases of the project which could eventually produce almost 400 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The initial phase is for 86MW. It is the largest tidal stream energy project to be awarded consent in Europe.

Ms Morris was delighted with the news. "It is a significant milestone in the development of this industry and a significant milestone for Caithness with many of the facilities, resources and skills in the local supply chain ready for MeyGen to utilise. We look forward to seeing this development pick up pace now that consent has been given," she said.

MeyGen chief executive officer Dan Pearson said the company is "thrilled to have reached this defining milestone".

"While there is still much work to be done, the prospects for delivering the first tidal energy array in the Pentland Firth and establishing a stepping stone to commercialising tidal energy, are promising."

Sir Anthony Cleaver, chairman of the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership (CNSRP) said: "This is a significant milestone for the tidal industry, and I offer warmest congratulations to Dan Pearson and his team. Tidal power was identified by CNSRP as having considerable economic potential for the north.

"Indeed the partners in CNSRP have been involved in a number of ways in the MeyGen project to date, whether through onshore and offshore planning, or through economic development and supply chain support."

He highlighted the investments made by the partnership including those at Scrabster and Wick harbours and at the Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre at North Highland College. ""We believe that Caithness and North Sutherland is the right place at the right time for the energy sector. And with a pipeline of skilled staff becoming available from Dounreay in the next five years, we feel the area also offers the right people to attract onshore employment benefits from the tidal industry as it develops," added Sir Anthony.

Landward Caithness councillor Alex MacLeod said: "It fills me with pride to see this world-leading tidal project take off here in the county of Caithness.

"Scotland is leading the way in this cutting-edge technology and Caithness is the beating heart of that innovation.

"The economic potential for the far north of Scotland is huge. Coupled with other major developments in offshore wind and onshore renewables, Caithness has positioned itself as Scotland's green energy hub."

He added: "It is essential that the Scottish Government maintains its strong show of support, ensuring the 86MW of the project is able to demonstrate this burgeoning industry's potential for success. By hosting this pioneering project, Caithness will be setting a global standard in marine energy, and I have every confidence in MeyGen's ability to deliver."

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: "We have granted consent to MeyGen Limited to develop the largest tidal turbine array in Europe and the first commercial project off these shores. This is a major step forward for Scotland's marine renewable energy industry. This is just the first phase for a site that could eventually yield up to 398MW."

When fully operational, the 86MW array could generate enough electricity to power 40% of homes in the Highlands.

MeyGen is a joint venture between investment bank Morgan Stanley, independent power generator International Power and tidal technology provider Atlantis Resources Corporation.

Its AR1000 turbine is claimed to be the world's most powerful single-rotor tidal device.

Each of the devices stand 73ft tall, weigh 1500 tonnes and have a rotor diameter of 59 feet.