A PIONEERING renewable energy scheme off the Caithness coast has achieved a world first.
The MeyGen tidal array scheme in the Pentland Firth last year recorded the longest period of uninterrupted electricity generation ever reached.
The project, run by Simec Atlantis Ltd, exported 24.7 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy – equivalent to the average annual needs of around 3800 homes – and generated £3.9 million in 2019.
In total, the company has now provided 24.7 GWh of what it describes as "predictable renewable electricity" to the national grid. Phase 1A of MeyGen generated total revenues since operations began of £7.1 million by the end of last year.
The Atlantis AR1500 turbine, part of the demonstration array, is scheduled to undergo maintenance and will be transported to land for servicing and upgrade work. It is due to be redeployed to the MeyGen site in the spring.
The upgrade will increase the turbine's revenue by four per cent with no increase in its operating cost, according to the company.
The next phase of the development will see an additional 80 megawatts produced at the site, which lies between Stroma and the mainland.
The company also intends to design, consent and build the world’s first ocean-powered data centre near the MeyGen site.
A concept study has been completed and design is said to be under way to include a connection to the Celtic Norse subsea fibre optic cable in development. That would "significantly enhance" Scotland’s international data connectivity, according to Atlantis, which is exploring connections to other international fibre optic cables as well.
Atlantis chief executive Tim Cornelius said: "I am delighted to report that MeyGen has now exported a remarkable 24.7GWh of predictable renewable energy. Not only is this world-renowned project helping the UK meet its net zero ambitions, it is also providing valuable performance data which can be used to inform future projects – demonstrating MeyGen’s importance as a global prototype.
"MeyGen holds a 398MW seabed lease and our data centre expansion project is world-leading for a number of reasons. The cost of tidal power continues to reduce and this is being assisted by the sustained pressure the offshore wind market places on the supply chain domestically and abroad.
"The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil but data, and by combining tidal power with onshore wind farms in close proximity to MeyGen we can create a virtual power plant to provide sustainable power to a data centre in Scotland, creating important new fibre connections for Scotland and the UK in the process."