The worlds most powerful tidal turbine just got a major

The world’s most powerful tidal turbine just got a major funding boost

Orbital Marine Power’s O2 turbine in the Orkney Islands north of mainland Scotland in September 2021. Scotland has become a hub for companies and projects focused on tidal power and marine energy in general.

William Edwards | AFP | Getty Images

Scottish engineering firm Orbital Marine Power said on Monday it had received £8 million ($9.64 million) in funding to fund “ongoing operations” of its O2 tidal turbine, another step forward for the fledgling tidal power sector.

In an announcement, Orbital Marine Power said £4million will come from the Scottish National Investment Bank, set up by the Scottish Government in November 2020. The other £4m has come from Abundance Investment through more than 1,000 individual investors.

“These debt facilities will be serviced through the long-term sale of electricity from the turbine, which is expected to be around 100 gigawatt hours of clean, predictable energy to be delivered to the UK grid or hydrogen electrolysers over the life of the project,” Orbital said.

According to Orbital Marine Power, its 2-megawatt O2 weighs 680 tons and has a hull structure of 74 meters. The company describes the O2, which uses 10-meter blades and began grid-tied power generation last year, as “the most powerful tidal turbine in the world.”

Mark Munro, Executive Director at SNIB, said the investment in Orbital is consistent with its “mission to support indigenous innovation and a just energy transition”.

“The company’s unique and scalable approach to tidal power plays an important role in the journey to net zero,” added Munro.

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Scotland has long been associated with oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, but in recent years has also become a hub for companies and projects focused on tidal power and ocean energy in general.

Orkney, an archipelago in waters north of mainland Scotland, is home to the European Marine Energy Centre. At EMEC, wave and tidal power developers can test and evaluate their technology in the open sea. Orbital’s O2 turbine is located at an EMEC site.

Last year, New York-listed TechnipFMC, which supplies technology to the energy sector, announced a strategic investment in Orbital Marine Power.

Europe’s energy transition

European installations of tidal and wave energy capacity skyrocketed in 2021 as the ocean energy sector experienced a return to pre-pandemic levels and a significant increase in investment.

In March, Ocean Energy Europe announced that 2.2 megawatts of tidal power capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kilowatts in 2020. For wave power, 681 kW was installed in Europe in 2021, a tripling of 2020, according to OEE.

Globally, 1.38 MW of wave power was connected to the grid in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal power capacity was installed.

While the potential of ocean energy is exciting, the overall size of tidal and wave projects remains very small compared to other renewable energies.

According to the industry association WindEurope, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity in 2021 alone.