First project to harness power of Shetland’s waves proposed by specialist firms

The project would involve operating a wave machine like the one pictured. Click on image to enlarge.
The project would involve operating a wave machine like the one pictured. Click on image to enlarge.

Plans have just been announced for Shetland’s first wave power farm which could produce more than five times as much power as the Burradale windfarm.

The Aegir project is a joint venture between the giant Swedish power company Vattenfall and the pioneering Leith-based company Pelamis Wave Power, producer of the “sea-snake”. Pelamis has had links with Shetland for many years.

The first phase of Aegir would involve an array of Pelamis floating generators anchored off the west coast of Shetland, with a capacity to generate up to 20 megawatts.

No details have yet been released of the site chosen for investigation and a consent application to Shetland Islands Council but The Shetland Times understands it involves an area off Burra of up to two square kilometres.

The project could be installed as early as 2014 but it is entirely dependent on an interconnector cable being laid between Shetland and the mainland, the only current prospect for that happening being the proposed Viking Energy windfarm.

In theory the wave farm could generate enough electricity to power every home in the islands but the local electricity grid cannot handle any more input from renewable schemes until there is a connection to the National Grid.

A team from Vattenfall and Pelamis is due in Shetland on Thursday to begin involving the community in the project. The SIC is to host a civic reception in Scalloway.

If the development did eventually go ahead it would give Shetland a slice of the wave power action currently being enjoyed by Orkney, home of the European Marine Energy Centre at Stromness where Pelamis has experimented with wave machines.

One of the engineers with Pelamis is Carn Gibson, eldest son of local architect Richard Gibson. The prototype for the first Pelamis machine was built in Lerwick in 2001 by another son, Fred Gibson.

A further Shetland connection is the Lerwick-based tug and workboat company Delta Marine, run by Bob Spanswick, which has been involved in towing and mooring Pelamis generators in Scotland and in Portugal where Pelamis created the world’s first commercial wave power farm.

Vattenfall’s ambition is for wave power projects to grow to the scale of offshore wind projects and it sees the Aegir project in Shetland as a key stepping stone. Aegir’s project manager Clare Lavelle said Shetland’s wave climate was “one of the world’s most energetic”.

“We have examined various locations off Shetland’s west coast and have now selected an area for further detailed investigation. As responsible developers we will continue to work closely with the Shetland islanders through this process to identify and develop the best possible project.”

SIC head of economic development Neil Grant said the Aegir project was “very significant” for the future of development in Shetland and the council looked forward to working with the joint venture team.

He said: “It opens a new chapter in the commercial marine energy sector. West of Shetland we have one of Europe’s best wave regimes. Our experience in providing engineering and logistical support to the offshore oil and gas, decommissioning and fisheries sectors, combined with excellent deep-water harbour facilities, makes Shetland an ideal location for this industry to develop.”

Vattenfall’s head of group function strategies Dr Helmar Rendez said the partnership with Pelamis would allow his company to work on developing a site which should prove very productive when it makes wave power a commercial reality.

The new chief executive of Pelamis Wave Power, Neels Kriek, said: “We are delighted to be working with Vattenfall on this ground breaking project which we hope will be one of many for our Scottish-built P-2 Pelamis machine.”


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