Whisky collection

Scotch whisky distilleries to be powered by tidal power

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Nova Innovation is set to install a series of underwater turbines off the west coast of Scotland. The turbines will generate renewable energy to power local Scotch whisky distilleries.

The turbines will be installed in the Sound of Islay: the narrow strait between the islands of Islay and Jura in the Inner Hebrides. Islay is home to nine active distilleries, and its exposure to the North Atlantic has made it a hub of tidal power innovation. Jura is home to the Jura distillery.

Now, these two pillars of the local economy come together with the installation of a series of underwater turbines in the strait as part of the Oran na Mara project. The turbines will generate renewable energy to power local Scotch whisky distilleries, replacing fossil fuel use on the islands.

“We are excited by the opportunity to combine Scotland’s rich whisky heritage with the immense power of the tide in the Sound of Islay,” said Simon Forrest, CEO of Nova Innovation. “Tidal energy can play a huge role in decarbonising the whisky industry and ensuring a sustainable future for Scotland’s island communities.”

“The Oran na Mara tidal array has the potential to pair one of Scotland’s largest and world-leading exports – whisky – with world-leading and internationally exportable tidal power technology.”

The installation has no significant impact on the landscape above sea level, hopefully having no adverse effects on tourism or safety for ships or the marine environment.

AJ Cunningham, operations manager at the Islay-based Bruichladdich Distillery, commented: “This tidal energy project is really encouraging news for Islay and the potential of energy sourced locally and renewably. In order to decarbonise our activities, access to a clean and continuous supply of energy such as tidal power could help support our carbon zero ambitions.”

Decarbonising the whisky industry is an important element of Scotland’s ambition to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. The production of Scotch is around seven times more energy- intensive than that of gin. The majority of the industry’s carbon emissions are associated with the generation of heat for the distillation process, which accounts for 83 per cent of the distillation industry’s fuel consumption. The industry is mostly fuelled by natural gas.

In a May 2020 report, the Scotch Whisky Association laid out a pathway to net-zero, which prioritises reducing energy consumption, increasing energy efficiency, and transitioning to greener energy sources before resorting to carbon offsetting.

In August 2020, the government announced a £10m fund to help UK distilleries transition to low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen and biomass.

Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute MSP, said: “It is good to see two success stories coming together. Whisky is a global brand and Islay is at the heart of that international industry; our renewable sector is also attracting world attention and the waters around Islay have huge potential.”

“The combination of the two shows the innovation and imagination for which Scotland is also famed and I am delighted to welcome this news. The combination of the two shows the innovation and imagination for which Scotland is also famed and I am delighted to welcome this news.”

“It will help decarbonise Islay, but it will also give an example of good practice which will be widely recognised and applauded.”

 

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