Bluemull tidal power array moves step closer with Crown lease

The world’s first community-owned tidal power turbine has taken a step closer with the granting of a lease to use part of the seabed between Yell and Unst.

The agreement from The Crown Estate gives Leith-based Nova Innovation the right to develop a full array of generators to produce up to half a MegaWatt of power from Bluemull Sound. If plans proceed as hoped it could become the UK’s first tidal array.

Nova’s first 30 kiloWatt generator belongs to North Yell Development Council and it expects to have it in the sea off the Ness of Cullivoe in December.

One of the NYDC directors Robert Henderson said he reckoned it might be February or March before the device is fully anchored, connected to the grid and ready to start producing electricity.

The turbine’s twin four-metre blades have been manufactured by Shetland Composites. Other local firms are also involved in the construction and servicing of the first machine.

Mr Henderson said progress towards putting in the first tidal machine had gone surprisingly well so far, given the delays which seem to hinder renewable energy projects. He was pleased the lease was now in place. “It’s one more hurdle that we’ve gotten over,” he said.

Nova director Simon Forrest said on Wednesday his company was delighted to secure the lease. He said it put Nova and Shetland “at the leading edge” of the world’s renewables sector.

“Today’s announcement is an early but very significant step in making the tidal array a reality. There is still a long way to go, including obtaining licenses and raising the appropriate funding.”

The site agreement licenses an area of Bluemull Sound with a cable coming ashore to the Cullivoe Pier. The power will be sold to the grid or used by RS Henderson’s modernised ice-making plant.

The Crown Estate will take a share of its success, charging a rate per MegaWatt-hour of power generated.

The project has been three years in the development and was assisted by Community Energy Scotland and Shetland Islands Council.

The Bluemull lease was one of six issued for Scotland along with one each for Wales and Northern Ireland. There are now 23 wave and tidal projects in Scotland with leases.

One of the other projects granted a lease this week involves Pelamis Wave Power putting 14 wave machines off the west coast of Lewis to create the 10 MegaWatt Bernera Wave Farm.
Pelamis is also involved in a partnership with energy company Vattenfall to site a wave farm off the west side of the South Mainland. But the Shetland wave farm cannot happen until an interconnector power cable is provided to the Scottish mainland.

The Crown Estate lease agreements include three other tidal stream projects: in the west of Islay by Marine Energy, off the Mull of Kintyre by Nautricity and another test site off South Kintyre by Oceanflow.


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