After years of costly failures, is tidal energy finally catching on? – Canary Media
The MeyGen tidal power array in Scotland has generated 50 GWh of electricity so far, marking a significant milestone
An array of underwater turbines that turn tidal energy into electricity hit an important early milestone off the coast of northern Scotland, the project’s developer said this week. The announcement strikes the rare bright note for a sector that’s struggled to gain a foothold despite decades of development and billions in investments.
On Monday, in the early morning hours, the MeyGen project became the first tidal stream array in the world to generate 50 gigawatt-hours of electricity over its lifespan, according to SAE Renewables, the Edinburgh-based developer. The company said that the total global generation from all other tidal devices and sites is less than half of that amount.
“Tidal can and does work, we just need to get more turbines in the water,” Graham Reid, CEO of SAE Renewables, said in a statement.
The MeyGen array, which began operating in 2017, includes four 1.5-megawatt turbines that sit some 66 feet below the water’s surface off the coast of the Pentland Firth. The strait separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland, and it has some of the strongest tidal currents in the world.
“We have overcome many challenges, with reliability being an issue in the early days, but we have learned an immense amount along the way,” Reid continued.
By way of comparison, the 50 gigawatt-hours that MeyGen generated is roughly equal to the average annual electricity consumption of 4,700 U.S. households.
Ocean tides and waves — powerful, predictable and perpetually replenished — have long held immense allure for clean energy developers. Tidal stream technologies are concentrated in narrow bodies of water and are a subset of the larger marine energy sector, which also employs oceanic turbines, cylinders, dams and other subsurface contraptions. All told, tidal streams have the theoretical potential to generate 1,200 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
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