'World's most powerful tidal turbine' gears up for operation 


A tidal turbine weighing 680 metric tons and dubbed “the world’s most powerful” has been launched from the Port of Dundee in Scotland, marking another significant step forward in the development of the U.K.’s marine energy sector. 

In an announcement Thursday, Scottish firm Orbital Marine Power said its 2 megawatt (MW) turbine, the Orbital O2, would now be towed to the Orkney Islands, an archipelago north of mainland Scotland, for commissioning.

The plan is for the turbine to then be connected to the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre, where it will become operational.

Construction work on the O2, which has a length of more than 70 meters and uses 10 meter blades, began in the second half of 2019. Orbital Marine Power said its launch marked “the completion of the turbine build.”

According to the firm, the turbine is able to produce enough electricity to meet the needs of approximately 2,000 U.K. homes each year. Orbital’s CEO, Andrew Scott, described the launch as a “huge milestone” for his company.

Orbital Marine Power’s announcement comes a day after Mocean Energy, which is also based in Scotland, said its wave energy prototype, Blue X, would undertake sea trials at an EMEC test site next month before being deployed at another site in the summer. The machine weighs 38 metric tons and is 20 meters long.

With miles and miles of coastline, the U.K. is home to a number of projects and initiatives related to marine energy.

Earlier this month, for example, it was announced that a year-long research project focusing on the potential of tidal, wave and floating wind technology had secured support from Marine-i, a program centered around innovation in areas such as marine energy.

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The project will be based on the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago located off the southwest coast of England, and led by Isles of Scilly Community Venture, Planet A Energy and Waves4Power.

And back in March, the Port of London Authority gave the go ahead for trials of tidal energy technology on a section of the River Thames, a move which could eventually help to decarbonize operations connected to the river.

While interest in marine-based energy systems appears to be growing, the current footprint of the industry and its technologies remains small.

Recent figures from Ocean Energy Europe show that only 260 kilowatts (kW) of tidal stream capacity was added in Europe last year, while just 200 kW of wave energy was installed.

By contrast, 2020 saw 14.7 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy capacity installed in Europe, according to industry body WindEurope.

Looking ahead, the European Commission wants the capacity of ocean energy technologies to hit 100 MW by 2025 and roughly 1 GW by 2030.



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