SCOTLAND’S first commercial wavefarm could be built off the Western Isles within four years.
The multimillion-pound development to the west of Lewis will be capable of powering 7,000 homes – more than meeting the requirements of a town the size of Stornoway.
Supporters say it will create jobs in the region and secure the future of the Arnish fabrication yard, which has already built sections for several wave power machines.
Pelamis Wave Power, which is based in Edinburgh, has secured an agreement for a lease of the seabed to develop the 10MW windfarm near the island of Bernera.
It is one of six new offshore site agreements for renewable energy projects in Scotland which will be announced by the Crown Estate today.
The package also includes a wavefarm in the Moray Firth and tidal developments for west of Islay, the Mull of Kintyre, Bluemull Sound in Shetland, and Sanda Sound in Argyll.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland has the potential to lead the world in wave and tidal energy, with a quarter of Europe’s tidal stream and a 10th of its wave energy potential.
“These new projects around the north and west of Scotland bring the total number of planned developments in Scotland to 25, including 1.6GW in the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters strategic area.
“Today’s announcement further reinforces the growing momentum and appetite for investment in marine renewables and demonstrates the breadth of activity taking place around Scotland’s coast.”
Yesterday Pelamis said construction of the Bernera farm was likely to start in 2015.
It will be the Western Isles’ first commercial wavefarm, and is in competition with developments in the Northern Isles to become the first in Scotland.
News of the project was welcomed by Angus Campbell, the leader of Western Isles Council, who also emphasised the importance of upgrading the islands’ grid connections.
He said: “The Outer Hebrides are the jewel in the crown of Scotland’s marine energy resource.
“As a community we are committed to encouraging the development of wave power in this area.
“This announcement only heightens the need for us to upgrade the island’s grid connection so that marine projects can flourish in this part of the world.”
A total of 14 machines will make up the Bernera wavefarm. The equipment generates electricity from the movements of the ocean and is currently being tested at sites off Orkney.
At Bernera, the machines will be located up to six miles from the shore. The Pelamis site covers about 38 square miles but the final wavefarm will occupy an area of less than one square mile. Ros Hart, project development manager, would not commit to using the Arnish yard to manufacture the machinery, but said the facilities at the yard were a “key feature” of the region.
She said: “The Western Isles will be home to many of the world’s first wavefarms and this lease is yet another step towards commercialising wave energy in Scotland. If the trajectory of our business and its technology continues, this will be the Western Isles’ first grid-connected wavefarm.
“We have been working on this project for a number of years and look forward to completing the Bernera wavefarm in continued close collaboration with the local communities and stakeholders involved.”
She added: “The Western Isles are not only one of the best locations in the world for wave resource, they also boast a fantastic manufacturing facility and a proud seafaring history.
“The Bernera wavefarm is the first of what we hope will be many megawatts of Pelamis power to come from the seas around the Outer Hebrides.”