North Yell was the scene of a world first this week when its community-owned tidal power turbine started exporting electricity to the local grid.
The turbine, sited on the seabed in Bluemull Sound off the Ness of Cullivoe, will power up to 30 homes, a locally-owned ice plant and Cullivoe Harbour Industrial Estate in North Yell.
The project, developed by Leith-based tidal energy company Nova Innovation in partnership with North Yell Development Council, has been funded by the Scottish government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (Cares), Shetland Islands Council and North Yell Development Council.
North Isles councillor and chairman of North Yell Development Council Robert Henderson said it marked a “tremendous moment” for North Yell.
“For the first time anywhere in the world, electricity is being generated from a community-owned tidal turbine.
“Having used as much local expertise as possible we’re keen to see Shetland taking a leading role in marine renewables.”
The turbine sits on the seabed at a depth of more than 100ft and consists of a propeller that is spun by the power of the tide as it flows past. The rotating propeller drives a generator that produces electricity, which is transmitted onshore via a 1km subsea cable.
The turbine can generate up to 30KW and is intended to cut electricity requirements for the various outlets it supplies and will feed any surplus back into the grid.
According to development officer Patrick Ross-Smith Nova Innovation attempted to source as much technology and services from within Shetland as possible. About a quarter of the money used on the project was spent in Shetland.
Lerwick-based Shetland Composites supplied the “strong but light” propeller blades while Delta Marine played a strong supporting role with its work boats.
It was important, Mr Ross-Smith added, to have someone locally-based through the development and commissioning phase of the project.
“Shetland has the lead on this significant national project,” he added. “While we do not have a test site and nursery site like EMEC in Orkney, we have shown [what we can do] at an early stage deployment.”
Nova Innovation managing director Simon Forrest said he was delighted the Nova 30 tidal turbine had been successfully deployed and was generating electricity to the grid. It marked a major achievement for the wider Scottish tidal industry with more than 80 per cent of Nova’s supply chain Scottish-based.
He added: “By working in close partnership with the North Yell community and our suppliers, we believe that this project demonstrates the growing confidence in the marine sector and strengthens Nova Innovation’s leading position in the emerging global marine energy industry.”
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, who was this week attending the All-Energy Conference in Aberdeen, also welcomed the development. He said: “For the first time, anywhere in the world, a community-owned tidal turbine is generating electricity. It will have a positive impact on the North Yell community and economy.”
Scottish Enterprise’s director of renewables and low carbon technologies Seonaid Vass said: “With more wave and tidal devices being tested in our waters than anywhere else in the world, Scotland is recognised as a global leader in the marine energy sector.
“The successful deployment of this device is an important step in the development of technologies in the tidal industry, and we look forward to continuing to work with the company to supports its growth plans.”
Mr Ewing said Scotland was a world leader in wave and tidal energy, with a quarter of Europe’s tidal stream and a tenth of its wave-energy potential.
“We must tackle climate change and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through better and more efficient uses of energy. That is why Scotland generated a record amount of electricity from green energy sources last year,” Mr Ewing added.
NINES project manager at SSE Power Distribution Colin Mathieson said: “This is great news for Shetland and we are delighted that the NINES project has been an integral part in facilitating this connection, playing a big part in helping to manage Shetland’s low carbon network.”