Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

April 9, 2008

Tide turns in favour of Islay community

Best known for its whisky production, Islay is about to gain a new reputation as a major producer of renewable energy. The community owned Islay Energy Trust are partnering Robert Gordon University in Scotland’s first large scale tidal energy project


Scotland’s first large-scale tidal energy project is to be installed on the island of Islay. Members of the community-owned Islay Energy Trust have backed creation of the commercial-sized project, which is to be built in collaboration with Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

Scotland’s fifth-largest island will become home to between four and six turbines with a total capacity of around 2 megawatts. Developing the turbines is expected to cost up to £750,000 and should take around three years to complete. Once in operation, revenue would be generated from the sale of electricity.

‘It’s a very innovative business model,’ said Philip Maxwell, chairman of the Islay Energy Trust. ‘Instead of the conventional route of involving a large energy company or turbine manufacturer, the community is taking the initiative.

‘We aim to ensure that any exploitation of the considerable tidal energy resources in the seas around the Isle of Islay yields substantial and sustainable benefits to the community, as well as providing greater energy security.’

Scientists have estimated that marine power could generate one third of Scotland’s renewable energy needs, with the seas around Islay holding particularly rich potential.
Islay, famed for its malt whisky, is already home to the world’s first commercial wave power station – Wavegen’s Limpet at Portnahaven. Waves are driven by winds; by contrast, tidal power taps the energy of the Moon as it raises tides around the Earth.

The new proposal for Islay is a major step forward in the commercialisation of tidal energy exploitation which could ultimately generate enough energy to supply about 5 per cent of total demand for the UK. It will also make a contribution to meeting Scotland’s target of 50 per cent of electricity coming from renewable energy resources by 2020, and could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 4,000 tonnes a year.

‘Tidal streams offer a substantial and predictable source of renewable energy and this is an area where RGU has specific expertise,’ said Dr Alan Owen, of Robert Gordon University’s School of Engineering.
It is hoped that the pre-feasibility study, which will evaluate potential tidal resources, locate possible sites for the underwater turbines and prepare for the environmental impact assessment, will be completed by the end of the summer.