JOHN ROSS, The Scotsman, April 24, 2008
A scheme designed to harness the power of the Atlantic to supply electricity to hundreds of homes was unveiled yesterday.
Plans were submitted for a wave-power station on Lewis, one of the first in the world and seen as a model for similar projects in the UK and abroad.
The Siadar Wave Energy Project (Swep) is a collaboration between Npower Renewables and Inverness-based technology company Wavegen. It plans to use waves in Siadar Bay to generate up to 4 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply the average annual needs of 1,500 homes in Lewis and Harris, a fifth of the population.
Swep would be the first project to operate under the Scottish Government’s Marine Supply Obligation (MSO), put in place to promote the development of the first marine-energy power stations.
If approved by ministers, building work could start next year and take about 18 months to complete, creating up to 50 construction jobs.
The scheme involves building a new breakwater about 350 metres from the shore which would house the Wavegen turbines. As well as providing renewable electricity, it could provide shelter and allow the development of a fairweather harbour facility for small commercial and leisure craft.
Bill Langley, the marine development manager for Npower Renewables, said: “We believe this is a new chapter in the UK’s search for a sustainable future.
“We remain convinced that the Swep could be the gateway to harnessing the best wave resource in the UK. This pilot scheme could be the stepping stone to realising large-scale wave-energy projects around the UK and worldwide.”
Matthew Seed, chief executive of Wavegen, said the project builds on the technology developed at the Limpet plant on Islay, which has been grid-connected since 2000 and is due to be installed in a project in Spain’s Basque country.
He added: “Wavegen has identified further UK locations for this type of plant, and we will be working with Npower Renewables to start making wave energy a real contributor to government renewable-energy targets.”
The project dates from June 2006 when a partnership between Npower Renewables and Wavegen was announced to investigate the potential for a new wave-power scheme at Siadar.
Swep is based on the “oscillating water column” (OWC) principle, which sees ocean waves moving air in and out of chambers in a breakwater, which in turn drives a turbine to generate electricity.
It is estimated that marine energy could eventually supply up to 10 per cent of the world’s electricity needs.
Scotland has massive potential to be a major generator of wave power. The UK is home to 47 per cent of Europe’s wave resource, with 10 per of that total located north of the Border.