Funding has just been secured to break ground on the world’s largest ocean current-driven power plant on the shores of Scotland. The plant is expected to supply the electrical needs of 175,000 homes once completed, with the initial delivery of electricity expected by 2016.
The first phase of the project will include 61 tidal turbines which will supply Scotland with enough power for 42,000 families. Eventually there could be as many as 269 water turbines installed on the array, creating 398 megawatts of electricity. $83 million has been raised to start the first phase of the power plant.
Scotland has a goal of being completely off of fossil fuels by 2020, and this projects puts them on the path to meet that ambitious target.
Tidal energy works in a very similar manner to wind energy; in fact, the turbines look very similar. According MeyGen, the builder of the plant,
“Sea water is 832 times denser than air and so a 5 knot ocean current has more kinetic energy than a 220 MPH wind. Therefore ocean currents have a very high energy density and a smaller device is required to harness tidal current energy than to harness wind energy.
Tidal current energy takes the kinetic energy available in currents and converts it into electricity. As oceans cover over 70% of Earth’s surface, ocean energy (including wave power, tidal current power and ocean thermal energy conversion) represents a vast source of energy, estimated at between 2,000 and 4,000 TWh per year, enough energy to continuously light between 2 and 4 billion 11W low-energy light bulbs.”
Due to the slower moving blades in a water current powered turbine, it is less likely that they will cause harm to sea life or the surrounding ecosystem. Tidal turbines are much less disruptive to the flow of water than other types of tidal power such as ‘barrages’, which actually trap and release rising tide water.
The project will be built in the Pentland Firth in Scotland.
Here is a graphic that shows how the project will look when completed.
Here’s a short video that shows how tidal turbines work: