Ocean power’s century-long status as the potent renewable energy source perpetually stuck in neutral may finally be changing. A Scottish company has announced the world-first commercial delivery of electricity to the independent grid serving 23,000 residents of the Shetland Islands, an archipelago 220 kilometres north of mainland Scotland.
According to The Guardian, Nova Innovation began delivering power to the Shetlands grid after installing the second of five 100-kilowatt turbines it plans to place in Bluemull Sound, where the Atlantic and North Sea meet at the island group’s northern tip. The islands currently use diesel generators for most of their power.
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“News that power has been exported to the 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,” said Lang Banks, a director of World Wildlife Fund Scotland.
The achievement may signal a hopeful turn after decades of frustrated hopes for capturing a portion of the vast kinetic energy represented by tide and wave movement. Nova Innovation appears to have succeeded where at least two previous Scottish initiatives to capture wave energy—by the firms Pelarmis and Aquamarine—failed.
Meanwhile, “a French company, OpenHydro, says it too is very close to linking two tidal machines, off Brittany, to build a more powerful one-megawatt array,” The Guardian notes.
In the United States, Salon declared the moment “cresting” for wave energy, with maturing technology and the announcement of US$40 million in Energy Department funding for “the nation’s first open-water wave-energy-testing facility in a location to be determined.”
If the tide is really turning for ocean power, however, the change has been slower to make itself felt in Canada.
Efforts by the Cape Sharp Tidal Venture (in which OpenHydro is a partner) to place a test turbine at a location designated for the purpose in the Bay of Fundy—home to the world’s highest tides and the focus of engineers’ schemes to capture their energy since the 19th century—have run into a series of local protests and, most recently last week, equipment breakdowns.