‘Most powerful’ tidal turbine starts generating electricity off Orkney

A tidal-powered turbine, which its makers say is the most powerful in the world, has started to generate electricity via the grid in Orkney.

The Orbital O2 has the capacity to meet the annual electricity demand of 2,000 homes for the next 15 years.

In May, it was sailed out of Dundee, where it was assembled over 18 months.

The 680-tonne turbine is now anchored in the Fall of Warness where a subsea cable connects the 2MW offshore unit to the local onshore electricity network.

Orbital Marine Power said its first commercial turbine, which will be powered by the fast-flowing waters, is a “major milestone”.

It is also providing power to an onshore electrolyser to generate green hydrogen.

Orbital O2IMAGE COPYRIGHTORBITAL MARINE POWER
image captionThe turbine was lowered onto a barge on the River Tay ahead of its journey to Orkney in May

Orbital chief executive Andrew Scott praised his team and the supply chain for delivering the “pioneering renewable energy project” safely and successfully.

He added: “Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector.”

The turbine’s superstructure floats on the surface of the water, with rotors attached to its legs which extract energy from the passing tidal flow.

It is held on station by a four-point mooring system with each mooring chain having the strength to lift over 50 double decker buses.

Electricity is transferred from the turbine via a dynamic cable to the seabed and then through a static cable to the local onshore electricity network.

Wind turbineIMAGE COPYRIGHTORBITAL MARINE POWER
image captionThe tidal turbine is 74m long and weighs 680 tonnes

The company is now aiming to commercialise its technology in a move it says will deliver a jobs boost to coastal communities.

Mr Scott said: “We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low-carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”

The construction of the O2 turbine was enabled by public lenders through the ethical investment platform, Abundance Investment.

It also received £3.4m from the Scottish government’s Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund.

Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said: “With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally-placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.

“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero.”

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