PLANS to power 750,000 homes using the power of the sea came a step closer yesterday after energy firms were given the go-ahead to develop sites in the north of Scotland.
First Minister Alex Salmond congratulated the seven firms that have been given leases develop the seabed around Orkney and Caithness, dubbed the Saudi Arabia of marine energy.
The leases are part of ambitious plans to allow energy firms to develop and plant devices on 10 sites in the sea, creating new jobs and cleaner energy.
Speaking in Edinburgh, Salmond said: “These waters have been described as the Saudi Arabia of marine power and the wave and tidal projects unveiled today – exceeding the initial 700 mega-watt target capacity – underline the rich natural resources of the waters off Scotland.
“Leading international energy companies and innovators continue to be drawn to Scottish waters, which boast as much as a quarter of Europe’s tidal and offshore wind resource and a tenth of the continent’s potential wave capacity.
“The Scottish Government is working with The Crown Estate, developers and key partners to support this rapidly-growing industry, to ensure communities such as those in Caithness and Orkney are well-placed to reap the benefits and to secure Scotland’s position as the green energy powerhouse of Europe.”
Last year the Crown Estate, which awarded the sites and manages £6billion-worth of UK land on behalf of the state, said that Scotland was one step closer to its aim of generating enough energy to power 750,000 homes by 2020.
One of the firms that benefited from yesterday’s announcement was Aquamarine Power, which was jointly awarded the largest site in Orkney.
The Edinburgh-based company, which employs around 50 people, has already connected its Oyster wave machine to the national grid and aims to develop a field of devices to power hundreds of thousands of homes.
CEO Martin McAdam, said: “Harnessing the power of the sea to produce clean energy will play a crucial role in our future energy security and in meeting the UK’s climate change objectives.
“Deploying Oyster on a commercial scale has the potential to generate millions of pounds for the Scottish and UK economy and to create hundreds of jobs on a local and national level.”
The areas awarded to the developers, which also include Scottish Power Renewables and Eon, contain 1.2 giga-watts of wave and tidal energy – four times the level of power created by nuclear plant Dounreay.
Thurso and Wick Union Council has previously urged the Crown Estate to speed up the process, to create new sources of work for the hundreds of workers who lost their jobs when Dounreay closed.