The new turbine looks a lot like a wind turbine, but operates based on tidal flow.  (Source: Scottish Power)

The turbines are weighted to hold them to the sea floor.  (Source: Scottish Power)

If you've never heard of the Pentland Firth, here's a helpful map of where it is in reference to northern Scotland.  (Source: BBC)
New plant likely to be complete in 2020, will power up to 40,000 homes

DailyTech recently reported that the world's first wave-power plant was coming online.  Constructed by a Scottish firm, the plant featured 3 large wave generators off the coast of Portugal.  Now a new plant initiative has been launched by the enterprising Scots.

Engineering firm Scottish Power announced the launch of a major tidal power plant project.  The new project will be located locally in the Pentland Firth, Sound of Islay and Antrim coast, all coastal regions of northern Scotland.  The new project may be the largest tidal plant at the time of its completion and perhaps is the first tidal plant to qualify as more than an experimental project.  Russia also has a massive 10 GW tidal plant planned, but only currently has 1.5 MW of installed capacity.

The Pentland Firth seabed will be leased from Crown Estate.  The project there could be complete by approximately 2020.  The Crown Estate identified Caithness and Sutherland coasts and around Orkney as prime tidal power locations.  Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond called the firth "the Saudi Arabia of marine energy".

The new project will be Scottish Power's chance to deploy its Lanstrom device, the new tidal turbine it’s been cooking up.  Up to 60 turbines are planned for the project, with up to 20 at each site.  Each turbine generates 1 MW, so the combined plant could generate 60 MW, or enough to power 40,000 homes.

The turbine stands 30 m tall, and can be as deep as 100 m below sea level.  It has been tested in a Norwegian fjord.  Scottish Power insists the turbine is harmless to marine life, but the Marine Conservation Society is demanding a thorough environmental impact analysis.  Normal ships can pass over it, but trawlers are banned from regions where the turbines are deployed.

Nonetheless, Scottish Power is very excited about the new plant.  Scottish Power' renewables director Keith Anderson said, "The rapid technological advancement of tidal power has enabled us to progress plans for this substantial project which has the real potential to deliver significant environmental and economic benefits."

The opening of the firth to commercial development is a vital step, he says.  He described, "These developments are a significant step forward in Scotland's journey to become a world leader in the development of renewable energy.  The Pentland Firth is the Saudi Arabia of marine power.  Our seas alone could provide 25% of Europe's tidal power and 10% of wave power. The vast potential of the Pentland Firth will mean more investment, more jobs and more opportunities for the Caithness area."

The new project could boost a sagging Scottish economy, impacted by the closure of Dounreay, a former nuclear power complex.  It should also prove an ideal test deployment of a full-scale commercial tidal plant.

Internet giant Google recently made waves when it filed a patent for tidal-powered barge data-centers, leading to speculation that it might be cooking up a computer navy.

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