Wave energy developer Aquamarine Power, has received full consent from the Scottish Government for a 40MW wave farm off the north-west coast of Lewis, Scotland – making it the world’s largest fully-permitted ocean energy site.
The announcement was made by the Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing at the All Energy conference in Aberdeen.
The green light from the government and its regulator Marine Scotland, along with onshore planning which was approved last September, means the Edinburgh firm, through its wholly owned subsidiary Lewis Wave Power Limited, will be able to begin installing their near-shore Oyster wave energy machines at the site in the next few years – once the necessary grid infrastructure has been put in place.
This will ultimately see the deployment of between 40 and 50 Oyster devices along the coast at Lag na Greine, near to Fivepenny Borve, in one of the best wave energy locations in Europe. Once complete, the farm will have the capacity to power nearly 30,000 homes.
Last year the local council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), approved planning for the onshore hydroelectric power plant which will be connected to the Oyster wave energy farm.
Aquamarine Power are currently testing their second full scale wave machine, known as the Oyster 800, at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, and are now producing electrical power to the grid.
“This is a significant milestone for our company,” says Aquamarine Power Chief Executive Officer Martin McAdam. “The goal of our industry is to become commercial, and to do this we need two things – reliable technologies and a route to market. Our engineers are currently working hard on getting the technology right and we now have a site where we can install our first small farm, with a larger-scale commercial build out in the years ahead.
“We have worked in close consultation with the people and businesses of Lewis in the development of our proposals and would like to express our gratitude for their ongoing support. We were delighted with the turnout at the series of public exhibitions we held on Lewis last March, and we also commend government regulator Marine Scotland and the Western Isles Council for their positive approach.
“We believe wave energy presents an important opportunity for the Isle of Lewis. Our development could provide significant economic benefit to the local community. In Orkney, for example, we have spent over £5 million in the local economy during the installation of the first two Oyster devices and have worked with over 40 local companies as part of our commitment to sourcing much of the services and expertise we require locally.”
Making the announcement, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP said:
“I am delighted to announce that Scottish Ministers have granted a License to Aquamarine Power to develop the largest commercial wave array in the world. Aquamarine Power is an exciting, dynamic Scottish company that is increasingly expanding its renewable business.
“The development of up to 50 Oyster wave devices off the North West coast of Lewis, when operational, will have the power to produce 40MW of renewable electricity.
“This is another significant milestone for Scotland’s wave sector. With 10 per cent of Europe’s wave power potential, and 25 per cent of its offshore wind and tidal power potential, the opportunities for Scotland are enormous.”
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive, Scottish Renewables, said:
“This is a fantastic milestone for the Scottish renewables industry and this project will make a significant contribution to our energy mix once it begins generating.
“It’s further proof that we have become home to a world leading marine energy industry that is delivering jobs and investment to communities across Scotland.
“However, we can’t forget that this is the kind of prize that could be lost unless costs for projects to connect to the grid on the islands are set at a competitive level.”
Agnes Rennie, Chair of local landowner Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust), said:
"It is very encouraging to see the development at Lag na Greine reaching this important objective, highlighting the abundant wave resource in north-west Lewis. The Urras and the community look forward to working with the company through the next stages of the development towards installation of the Oyster array.”
Angus Campbell, Leader, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said:
“This is excellent news for the Outer Hebrides and demonstrates the growing appetite of major energy companies to locate in Europe’s area of best marine resource, here in the islands. Our Atlantic coast represents one of the best wave energy resources in Europe and there is no doubt that the area can become a global player as nascent wave energy technology comes to market, benefitting carbon reduction targets and regenerating the local economy. Aquamarine Power’s scheme is an important first step in this process and we have been impressed by their professionalism as they developed their proposals in close collaboration with the local community.
“Aquamarine Power’s technology is, literally, a world leader and we will continue to work with Aquamarine Power and other developers to make West of Hebrides the location of choice for what is sure to become one of the world’s most important industries. It is vital that developing technology like that of Aquamarine Power is retained in Scotland but, for that, we need to extend our electricity grid into the areas of best resource. Aquamarine Power’s announcement adds further weight to the call for our transmission owner, SSE, to move quickly on construction of this link for which there is so much consented demand.”
Maria McCaffery Chief Executive of RenewableUK said:
“This is a big step forward for the marine energy sector in the UK and especially in the Scottish Islands, which has such a first-rate marine energy resource.
“These are the type of developments that we hope to see more of in the coming months and years to herald the opportunity that marine energy represents. Just last week we were told by a Government report that more needed to be done for the Scottish Islands to reap the benefits generated by marine energy projects. Today’s announcement shows the interest industry has in the area, and we hope it will provide a spur to finding a solution, so that we can see further development of this excellent resource. ”
Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland said:
"This announcement is a fantastic boost for Scotland's marine renewables sector and will put Lewis firmly on the world map when it comes to wave energy. However, if Scotland is to rule the waves when it comes to marine renewables then it's vital we quickly resolve the issues of grid connection and transmission costs to the Scottish islands.
"Alongside energy saving measures, wave power and other renewables have a critical role to play in helping Scotland reduce climate emissions, create jobs and generate export opportunities. With careful planning we can harness the waves and tides while safeguarding the nation's tremendous marine environment.”