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‘World’s most powerful tidal turbine’ has started exporting power

Thursday, August 12th 2021, 11:29 am - Underwater turbines have been deployed off the coast of Scotland, where some of the most powerful tides in the world can generate enough electricity for thousands of homes in the United Kingdom.

The tidal turbine energy sector is in its infancy, but some innovators are making headway with their recent developments.

Orbital Marine Power, a Scotland-based company, has deployed a tidal turbine in an archipelago north of Scotland’s mainland and has begun exporting power to the local electricity grid.

Orbital’s energy-generating vessel is a floating platform that is moored by anchors in a water body with powerful tides or currents. Once the ideal location has been reached, two ‘legs’ with rotors at the end of them stretch out and start spinning as the water flows through. Electricity then flows from the turbine through cables on the seabed and into the local onshore electricity network.

Orbital O2 Power generation 2 Two rotors can be seen on the energy-generating vessel. (Orbital Marine Power)

The company spent 17 years developing their technology and launched their first turbine in 2016, which became the world’s most powerful tidal turbine that had ever gone into operation. The turbine was located near the Orkney Islands, which have some of the harshest tidal conditions on the planet.

Now, the company says that their recently launched Orbital O2 2MW is “the most powerful, technologically advanced tidal turbine in the world.” The turbine weighs a whopping 680 metric tons and is held in place by four mooring chains, with each one having the strength to lift over 50 double decker buses.

Orbital O2 2MW is anchored in Fall of Warness at the European Marine Energy Centre and generates energy from tides that can exceed three metres per second. The company estimates that their latest deployment will be able to provide the electricity demands of approximately 2,000 homes in the United Kingdom and offset 2,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide production each year.

Orbital O2 Power Generation 3 Extreme movements in the ocean off Scotland’s mainland generate enough electricity to power thousands of U.K. homes. (Orbital Marine Power)

“Decarbonising energy is an imperative for the safety of generations to come and a responsibility that rests with us all. At Orbital, we have an innovative solution that can cost effectively harness the hugely dense, predictable, renewable energy that flows in the world’s ocean and river currents,” the company says on their website.

Members of Scotland’s federal government also celebrated the recent tidal turbine deployment.

“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. That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years, including through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge fund, which provided £3.4m for this project,” said Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy Michael Matheson.

Thumbnail credit: Orbital Marine Power

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