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Ground-breaking Tidal Power Project Achieves Major Milestone

Early this morning, SAE Renewables, an Edinburgh-based company, announced a world-first achievement in the emerging tidal power sector. The company’s tidal stream array, located off the coast of the Pentland Firth, has generated 50 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity, making it the first tidal stream array in the world to reach this milestone. Graham Reid, CEO of SAE Renewables, said that this was a significant milestone in delivering tidal stream power at scale.

Despite the excitement surrounding marine energy, tidal stream projects have a much smaller footprint than other renewable energy projects. While the MeyGen project’s tidal stream turbines, for example, have a total of four turbines, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity in 2021, according to WindEurope.

Nonetheless, the achievement of SAE Renewables is a step forward for the tidal power industry. The MeyGen array, which is located in the waters north of mainland Scotland, has a total capacity of 6 megawatts when fully operational, with four 1.5-megawatt turbines. Currently, three turbines are in operation. Reid mentioned that the MeyGen site has been operational since 2017 and the company has overcome many challenges, including reliability issues in the early days, but has learned a lot along the way.

Scotland has been a hub for companies and projects focused on tidal power and marine energy in general, with Nova Innovation and Orbital Marine Power being among them. Orkney, a group of islands north of the Scottish mainland, is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, where wave and tidal energy developers can test and evaluate their technology in the open sea.

In March 2022, Ocean Energy Europe released data stating that Europe installed 2.2 megawatts of tidal stream capacity in 2021, up from 260 kilowatts in 2020. Globally, 3.12 megawatts of tidal stream capacity were installed. While progress has been made in recent years, tidal stream projects remain relatively small compared to other renewable energy projects.