THE commercial development of wind and wave power in the Pentland Firth and waters around Orkney could pave the way for an economic bonanza.
The prospect of £3billion to £4billion investment over the next decade and the creation of thousands of jobs received a universal welcome, not least in the far north where quality jobs can be scarce.
The size of the projects range from 200 megawatts (MW) down to 50MW. The six wave energy developments have the potential to generate 600MW with the four tidal projects another 600MW.
Orkney Islands Council convener Stephen Hagan hailed it as “a fantastic development for the whole of Scotland and for Orkney in particular”.
“We have been preparing ourselves for this for the past seven years. We see massive opportunity for the economy and jobs,” he said.
The council’s involvement with renewable energy stretches back decades with studies into marine resources. Today, 40% of the islands’ electricity comes from green energy.
Mr Hagan says the council is limited on how much it can invest but it has already put several million pounds into developments such as improving Lynes pier, which is seen as an ideal supply base for the west of the islands.
“We can’t put in billions of pounds but we can put some millions into the infrastructure,” he said.
With the prospect of declining oil reserves and the need for clean energy that does not cause climate warming, the potential is huge.
Crown Estates chief executive Roger Bright said: “The long-term prospects of this growing industry are exceptionally bright, with vast amounts of untapped energy in the seas around the UK. It will create new businesses and jobs as well as attracting inward investment,” he said.
A variety of subsea technologies will be used, ranging from huge underwater fans to a massive tube-like device that flexes with the waves.
Aquamarine Power and SSE Renewables have a joint venture for a commercial farm of Oyster wave power devices at Brough Head, generating 200MW.
Aquamarine chief executive Martin McAdam said: “Harnessing the power of the sea to produce clean energy will play a crucial role in our future energy security and in meeting the UK’s climate change objectives.
“Deploying Oyster on a commercial scale has the potential to generate millions of pounds for the Scottish and UK economy and create hundreds of jobs on a local and national level.”