New study ups tidal energy potential in Scotland’s Pentland Firth

Tidal energy produced in the Pentland Firth could potentially power half of Scotland, according to new research by engineers at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh.

The report is the “most detailed study yet” and estimates 1.9 GW of power could be generated in the stretch of water between mainland Scotland and Orkney, which are some of the fastest in the British Isles.

Researchers said this newest study improves on previous estimates that were “too simplistic or based on inappropriate models”.

Earlier estimates — including an Oxford study released in July 2013 — placed Pentland Firth’s potential anywhere from one to 18 GW in cumulative capacity.

Though the newest report says as much as 4.2 GW could be produced, 1.9 GW is a much more realistic target based on the efficiency levels of currently available turbines.

“Our research builds on earlier studies by analyzing the interactions between turbines and the tides more closely,” said Edinburgh School of Engineering professor Alistair Borthwick. “This is a more accurate approach than was used in the early days of tidal stream power assessment, and should be useful in calculating how much power might realistically be recoverable from the Pentland Firth.”

The study was commissioned and funded as part of the Energy Technology Institute’s Performance Assessment of Wave and Tidal Array Systems (PerAWAT) project. reported in July 2012 that the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy & Climate Change had launched the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park. Project developers then announced a collaboration with England’s South West Marine Energy Park in March, allowing for more efficient research and development.

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