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World’s most powerful tidal turbine begins generation off the coast of Orkney

Orbital's O2 tidal turbine has begun generating electricity for the grid. Image: Orbital.

Orbital's O2 tidal turbine has begun generating electricity for the grid. Image: Orbital.

The world’s most powerful tidal turbine has begun generating power off the coast of Orkney, Orbital Marine Power has announced.

The O2 turbine is anchored in the Fall of Warness, where a subsea cable connects the 2MW asset to the local onshore electricity network at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

Manufactured and launched in Dundee before being towed to Orkney, it is Orbital’s first commercial turbine. It is 74m long, with twin 1MW power generating nacelles fixed on retractable leg structures. The O2’s 10m blades give it more than 600m2 of swept area to capture flowing tidal energy.

“This is a major milestone for the O2,” said Orbital CEO, Andrew Scott, “Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector.”

The O2 turbine at EMEC is expected to operate for the next 15 years, and in addition to providing electricity to the grid it is also to provide power to EMEC’s onshore electrolyser, generating green hydrogen as part of a wider decarbonisation project.

The O2 is 74m long, with twin 1MW power generating nacelles fixed on retractable leg structures. Image: Orbital.
The O2 is 74m long, with twin 1MW power generating nacelles fixed on retractable leg structures. Image: Orbital.

Orbital received funding from ethical investment platform Abundance Investment as well as the Scottish Government through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund for the construction of the O2 turbine. Additional support for the project has come from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the FloTEC project, along with the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg North West Europe Programme under the ITEG project.

Cabinet secretary for Net Zero and Energy Michael Matheson of Scottish Government said Scotland is “ideally-placed” to harness the potential of marine energy. “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.

“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero.”

Orbital is now planning to commercial its technology through the deployment of multi-MW arrays, and expects costs to fall steeply from roll-out of the technology, as previously demonstrated with wind and solar energy.

A recent report from Good Energy and the Energy Systems Catapult called on the government to ringfence capacity for new renewables including tidal. Along with wave and geothermal, it could provide 34GW of power by 2050 it found.

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