An underwater turbine for generating tidal power built by Scottish firm Nova Innovation

Tidal energy array makes first exports to grid

A tidal array consisting of a set of turbines has been connected to the national electricity grid in Scotland. 

Marine engineers from Edinburgh-based firm Nova Innovation have been busy installing the second of the two underwater turbines this month at a site in Shetland Isles. The two underwater turbines are linked, making them the world’s first operational tidal array.

The first turbine was installed in March inBluemull Sound and has been generating power ever since in all tidal conditions.

The firm behind the project envisages gradually building a large array comprising multiple turbines. The installation of the second device is a major step towards this goal.

Previous tidal projects, such as the Strangford Lough plant in Northern Ireland, consist only of one turbine.

"We are absolutely delighted to be the first company in the world to deploy a fully operational tidal array," said Simon Forrest, managing director of Nova Innovation.

The government of Scotland is currently working on a new energy strategy that reportedly aims to set some rather ambitious goals including for Scotland to become Europe’s first fully renewable nation by 2030. In 2015, the country generated more than 57 per cent of its electricity from renewables, beating the government’s official 50 per cent target. Earlier this month wind turbines managed to cover all of Scotland's electricity demand for a short period of time when winds were high.

"Scotland is already at the forefront of capturing power from the tides and waves, and Nova's latest news demonstrates that lead is well-deserved,” said Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables. "The country is already home to some of the most advanced marine energy technologies anywhere, as well as the European Marine Energy Centre - arguably the most advanced marine energy proving site in the world."

Lang Banks, director of environmental lobby group WWF Scotland, commented: "News that power has been exported to grid for the first time by a pair of tidal devices marks yet another major milestone on Scotland's journey to becoming a fully renewable nation. With some of the most powerful tides in Europe, Scotland is well placed to lead in developing this promising technology, which will help to cut climate emissions and create green jobs right across the country.”

While Scotland has set itself fully on the renewable path, South-East Asia is increasingly turning to nuclear to meet its energy needs. The Philippines is considering connecting its only nuclear power plant to the grid more than 30 years after it was built in order to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel imports.

The $2bn 620MW plant in Bataan province, northwest of Manila, has never been used. Putting it online will require an additional $1bn investment.

"We have to weigh all our options, with emphasis not just on meeting capacity requirements, but sustainability and environmental obligations as well," the country’s energy secretary Alfonso Cusi said at the opening of a three-day international conference on nuclear power in Manila.

International nuclear technology experts including those from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been invited to help the Philippines review the decision and possibly prepare a plan for the plant’s safe launch.

Cusi said there is no firm timeline for the project.

The Bataan plant, completed in 1984 under the rule of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was declared unsafe soon after completion because of its location in a major tectonically active area. It has never generated power and was mothballed in 1986 in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. A decade ago Manila looked into reopening the plant but the 2011 Fukushima nuclear incident renewed concerns about safety.

Marcos ordered the construction 1976 in order to address rising energy prices – still an issue for the Philippines four decades later. The country expects to see its electricity demand grow by 5 per cent every year until at least 2030.

"We need to move away from fossil fuels like coal but nuclear energy is not safe and will also harm the people and environment," said Zaira Patricia Baniaga of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice in a statement issued before the conference.

Other South-East Asian countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand are examining the prospects of adding nuclear power to their energy mix.

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