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Highland tidal power project hope for industry, with Japan interested in importing the technology and Nigg Energy Park playing part


By Scott Maclennan

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A MeyGen turbine being assembled at Nigg prior to being send to Japan for a trial.
A MeyGen turbine being assembled at Nigg prior to being send to Japan for a trial.

The success of a pioneering tidal power project off Caithness could open the doors to the birth of a whole new industry in the Highlands and, with it, a wave of employment and investment opportunities.

Simec-Atlantis’ MeyGen scheme now has a firm foothold on the energy market and is providing an ever more reliable stream of electricity to the local grid, despite many still considering tidal power generation a thing of the future.

Despite those suspicions, the project recently achieved 30GWh of output to the grid – more than any other project and around half the world’s total tidal energy generation.

The Japanese have even commissioned a trial scheme worth around £12.7 million in the straits of Naru Island within the southern Japanese Goto island chain, with the turbine and base assembled at Nigg Energy Park in Easter Ross.

Fraser Johnson, operations and maintenance manager at MeyGen, said: “Overall we are where we need to be, we are hitting our forecast yields so it is generating the power that we were expecting it to generate so it is all good for economics and the financing of it.

“It is much more concrete now. The amount of times that we have gone out, recovered turbines, brought them back, we know exactly how to do it, how much it costs and we know exactly how long it takes.”

Having established a reliable platform, it is looking to increase its output and perhaps the best way to do that is through a data centre, which functions like a bank for information for companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple.

MeyGen
MeyGen

Finance manager at Simec Atlantis, Alex Reading, said: “The data centre itself is allowing MeyGen to go from a 6MW facility that it has now to 86MW – and that ability to do that from a tidal perspective is huge.

“It is a great option – we are avoiding all the transmission charges and we are able to provide data capability to large organisations that want to come and store their data at a lower price using renewable energy.

“And there are also the highly skilled jobs within the data centre itself, then there is the building and maintaining of the turbines here – they are all good jobs.”

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