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Marine energy testing centre opens

10/08/2004

A centre which will allow the industry to test potential wave energy generators has been opened in Orkney today.

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), based in Orkney, is among the first of its type in the world, and will provide a unique one-stop facility for the industry to test potential wave energy generators.

Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace said the £5-million centre - an extension to which is already being planned to include tidal energy testing facilities - signals the "dawn of a new era for energy production in Scotland".

The Minister said:

"Today is a hugely significant landmark in the development of renewable energy - both for Scotland and the world. It is also another considerable achievement for devolution.

"EMEC epitomises our strategic vision for the development of a strong wave and tidal energy industry in Scotland. By providing world-class facilities here in Orkney we will be in a prime position to capitalise on the enormous opportunities provided by this rapidly developing and expanding sector.

"I am convinced that Scotland's renewable future will depend heavily on wave and tidal energy, and we are in a very strong position to develop these technologies. Clearly we enjoy an advantage in that the resources available here in Scotland are abundant. Indeed, Orkney itself has been identified as probably the best location in Europe for testing commercial-scale devices.

"Opening EMEC is just the first stage in ensuring that the marine energy industry develops and achieves its potential here in Scotland. Success in growing the sector will help us to meet our renewables targets and help protect our environment by reducing emissions and tackling climate change.

"However, marine energy also has the potential to create significant numbers of jobs here in Scotland - many of them in remoter areas, such as the Highlands and Islands. The recent Marine Energy Group report suggested that up to 7,000 jobs could be supported in both direct and indirectly related industries."

EMEC's opening comes little more than a week after the DTI announced a new £50 million Marine Renewables Development Fund.

Mr Wallace said the Centre underlines the Executive's commitment to developing all sources of renewable energy.

He said:

"We are also well on the way, with our funding partners, to ensuring that the Centre can be extended to include tidal facilities. We have said time and again that we are determined to support as wide and varied a renewables portfolio as possible. By acting in this way, we are supporting both economic growth and the security of our electricity supply.

"Today's ceremony at Stromness shows that we are keeping our word, and pointing the way forward."

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) is the realisation of a

partnership involving the Scottish Executive, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, Orkney Islands Council, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Carbon Trust. The Centre was constructed at a cost of around £5 million, the majority of the funding coming from the Executive and HIE.

Stromness in Orkney was selected as the ideal base for EMEC, a site that

has been described as 'probably the best location in Europe for testing commercial-scale devices'. The site selection process considered 18 different criteria and Orkney stood out in terms of:

  • Available energy resource
  • The shortest distance offshore to exploit the resource
  • The availability of onshore support facilities
  • The proximity of sheltered water for construction
  • Suitable connections to the electricity grid.

The four test berths are situated 2 kilometres offshore in a water depth

of 50 metres. Four cables stretch out to the berths from a new sub station at Billia Croo. Extreme waves at the site are steep, with large waves a regular occurrence. EMEC provides a fully comprehensive service, acting as enabler for marine energy device developers. All the necessary consents are in place, and the physical infrastructure of four test berths, a substation, an observation point, a weather station and a data centre, combine with expert knowledge to provide a unique one stop facility for the industry.

Initially EMEC will be used to test wave power but subject, to the necessary planning consents being obtained and the business plan's approval by the partners, EMEC will also be expanded to include tidal facilities.