UK-based SAE Renewables becomes the world’s first energy company to produce 50-gigawatt hours of electricity from tidal power
Tidal energy or tidal power is a form of renewable energy power produced by the surge of ocean waters during the rise and fall of tides due to alternating sea levels. It was first used in Europe more than 1000 years ago after the Europeans used tidal energy to operate grain mills. By retaining tidewater in the storage ponds, they were able to harness the outgoing tidal movement to turn waterwheels to mill grain.
Millennium later, advances in renewable energy technology have taken the emerging tidal power sector to a whole new level. One of the leading renewable energy companies in this space is Edinburgh, UK-based SAE Renewables, a renewable energy subsidiary of SSE plc, which develops and operates onshore and offshore wind farms and hydroelectric generation in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
On Monday, SAE Renewables announced that its project had achieved a world first by producing 50-gigawatt hours of electricity using tidal power. In a statement, SAE Renewables CEO Graham Reid said:
“I’m excited to announce a significant milestone for our MeyGen project, for the industry and on our net zero and energy security journey. During the early hours of this morning, and with only marine life for company, our tidal stream array off the coast of the Pentland Firth became the first tidal stream array in the world to generate 50GWh of electricity.”
“This is a significant milestone in delivering tidal stream power at scale,” Reid added.
Reid said that “Total global generation from all other tidal devices and sites is less than 50% of that amount.”
According to the news release, the MeyGen site has been operational since 2017. Before this major breakthrough, Reid stated that the company overcame many challenges, with reliability being an issue in the early days. “but we have learned an immense amount along the way. Our longest-deployed turbine has been in continual operation since December 2018 with an average availability of 95%,” he added.
SAE Renewables’ turbines are located 20m below the frigid waters off the North Coast of Scotland, where the exchange of water between the North Sea and the North Atlantic is squeezed between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Isles. SAE Renewables’ MeyGen array is made up of four 1.5-megawatt turbines and has a total capacity of 6 MW when fully operational. Currently, three turbines are in operation.
“This unseen and sometimes forgotten site has some of the strongest tidal flows found anywhere in the world and presents a predictable source of renewable electricity,” Reid said.
Progress but still a tiny drop in the ocean of renewables
Although some progress has been made in tidal energy generation, ocean energy, also called marine energy, marine power, and marine renewable energy still accounts for a very small fraction of other renewables like solar and wind.
According to data released by the trade association Ocean Energy Europe in March 2022, only 2.2 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed in Europe in 2021, up from just 260 KW in 2020. Globally, 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed. This is a drop in the ocean by comparison. According to figures from the industry body WindEurope, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity in 2021.