Friday, 20 September 2013
MeyGen Given Consent for Scottish Tidal Project
Mey Gen Ltd, a joint venture established between Morgan Stanley, GDF SUEZ, and Atlantis Resources Corporation, has reached an important milestone in its drive to create a commercially viable tidal energy array. The milestone comes by way of consent from Marine Scotland to pursue the project. Though this is just the starting point, gaining regulatory approval is one of the biggest hurdles any company has to overcome when projects potentially threaten the environment.
According to sources, MeyGen will build an initial array of up to six turbines in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth. Pentland Firth divides the Orkney Islands from Caithness off Scotland's northern coast. The site was chosen because it is one of Europe's greatest tidal resources. The company believes a demonstration of success here will open the door for future tidal energy projects.
News reports claim the new project is the largest of its kind to be approved in Europe. Although the initial build calls for an 86 MW generating capacity, it has been suggested the project could eventually grow to nearly 400 MW. That's a significant amount of energy that is both efficient and sustainable.
According to MeyGen officials, getting consent for the project was the culmination of more than four years of work. The company poured time, money, and resources into environmental studies, consulting with stakeholders, and networking with the local communities likely to be impacted by the project. The overall effort was successful in easing concerns of potential environmental harm.
One of the reasons approval took so long is the fact that the area is a very important one for local wildlife. Harming the habitats of both marine life and mammals could have a devastating impact on the region's unique ecosystem.
Until recently, tidal energy was considered unviable for commercial purposes due to its high cost of production. What's more, there are a limited number of regions around the world with the right tidal conditions to make energy production worthwhile. Advances in technology have changed that.
The new turbine arrays proposed by MeyGen take advantage of the latest technology to improve efficiency, increase production and drive down costs. Assuming the project succeeds as intended, it is a potential game-changer in the arena of sustainable energy.
The advantage tidal energy has over its solar and wind counterparts is reliability. Tides are consistent from one day to the next whereas wind and sun, on the other hand, come and go at their own discretion. The predictability and raw power of tidal cycles make them a more reliable source of sustainable energy as long as costs can be contained.
Once the MeyGen turbines are built and tested, the next project is to create the infrastructure necessary to support them on a large scale. That will be the easy part. From there it is simply a matter of proving that tidal energy from Pentland Firth is worth the investment. We'll have to wait to see how that goes...