The Sea could provide much of Scotland's power!
What is one of the greenest ways to generate lots of electricity? What if we could harness the immense energy in ocean currents? Tidal power has been developing rapidly as a viable means of generating electricity. Scotland is nearly surrounded by ocean and strong currents are common.
A new study, led by Oxford University researchers, provides the first reliable estimate of the maximum energy that could be generated from Pentland Firth. The 1.9GW figure is considerably lower than some early estimates as it takes into account factors such as how many tidal turbines it would be feasible to build, how a series of turbines would interact with each other, and averages out variations caused by the fortnightly and seasonal cycle of the tides. Tidal turbines stretched across Pentland Firth, which separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland, could generate up to 1.9 gigawatts (GW) of power — equivalent to almost half of Scotland's electricity needs.
The new calculations suggest that the prospects of extracting the first 500 megawatts (MW) of energy are very promising. Due to the increasing difficulty of extracting more and more energy towards the maximum of 1.9GW, the researchers believe that a target of extracting 1GW is realistic.
A report of the research appears in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
Dr Thomas Adcock of Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science, lead author of the report, said: 'Pentland Firth promises to be one of the best sites in the world for tidal power. What our research shows is that it could potentially generate power equivalent to almost half of Scotland's annual electricity consumption.
'Our study provides the first robust data about how much energy it would be feasible to extract. It also suggests that to be efficient any scheme would have to be "joined up" so that, for example, individual tidal turbines do not cancel each other out and provisions are made to store the greater energy produced by spring tides and feed these back in at neap tides.'
Scottish coastline photo via Shutterstock.
Read more at University of Oxford.