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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Maritime Logistics Professional

The tide is high

Posted to On the waterfront (by on December 15, 2009

The Scottish isle of Orkney is keen to harness the power of the waves

The power of the sea has huge potential for providing energy to millions, yet the scientific progress seems to be lagging behind wind power and other alternative fuels. 

However, the recent introduction of a bizarre-looking ‘Oyster’ off the far north coast of Scotland is set to harness that power in a whole new way. 

As part of the initiative by the European Marine Energy Centre at Stromness, on the Scottish island of Orkney, which sees nearly a dozen experimental devices being tested in its waters, the innovative ‘Oyster’ is leading the way in terms of capturing the energy of the tides and the waves.

It’s a massive step forward both for the region and the provision of wave energy capturing technology and will boost the ‘brand identity’ of this remote part of Europe as a leader in renewable energy. 

The ‘Oyster’ is the work of Scottish energy company Aquamarine Power, a forward-thinking organisation that aims to have ‘Oyster farms’ across the waters of the UK to harness the power of the tides in a green, clean manner. 

Aquamarine Power chief operating offices Matthias Haag explained how its ambitious plans are perfectly achievable. “It was quite nerve wracking installing the first one, but we’re more than happy with how it’s performed so far. Our studies have identified sites where the waves mean we could generate 5GW of electricity, so it’s got huge potential. We’re great fans of all types of renewable energy, but essentially tidal energy is the only one that’s predictable, so we’re putting forward a very strong case for investment.”

The main fly in the ointment at the moment is money. As the developments are really in their infancy in terms of repeatability and reliability, the costs at this stage are very high, even though the theory is sound. 

One core issue is the difficulty in running cables from the ‘Oysters’, or indeed other tidal power capturing machines, and then getting them to the National Grid and populated areas. 

However, as funding is increasing in this field and investors are pleased to look a little green by getting involved with ecologically-responsible funds, companies such as the European Marine Energy Centre are confident that the required capital is just around the corner. This is terribly important, as Neil Kermode from the EMEC warned, “There is an absolute risk that we could fair to develop the technology that gets the energy out of the sea. If we’re not careful we could end up buying this technology from overseas later on, which would be more than silly.”