Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given the go-ahead for the MeyGen tidal energy project in the Pentland Firth between the Orkney Islands and the mainland. The scheme, which initially involves deploying 86 1MW offshore tidal stream turbines, is expected to generate up to 398MW by the early 2020s.
The First Minister called upon the UK government to play its part in supporting renewable energy projects of this kind:
“I am incredibly proud of Scotland’s role in leading the way in tackling climate change and investment in marine renewables is a hugely important part of this.
“MeyGen is set to invigorate the marine renewables industry in Scotland and provide vital jobs for a skilled workforce, retaining valuable offshore expertise here in Scotland that would otherwise be lost overseas.”
Detractors might point to the £23 million of public funding that has been provided to a project that, despite being the largest of its kind in the world, will only generate around a third of the power provided by a conventional coal power plant.
Clearly the UK will need to spend significantly greater sums to deploy this type of technology at a scale that will replace its aging fleet of coal and nuclear power stations. That is not a reason not to go ahead; but it gives a flavour of the uphill struggle ahead.