At first glance, it might seem remarkable that a small group of islands lies at the cutting edge of marine energy development.
But perhaps the clue that explains why Orkney is playing a world leading role in the evolution of wave and tidal technologies lies in the word “islands”.
Standing between the Atlantic and the North Sea, with fast flowing currents channelled between the outcrops of land that form our archipelago, Orkney is home to some of the most energy-rich waters in Europe.
That’s why these islands were selected as the natural home for EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre, where new seagoing technologies are put through their paces in challenging wave and tidal conditions.
It also explains why many of the successful bidders – in the world’s first leasing round for commercial marine energy projects – will base their arrays of tidal and wave devices in Orkney waters in the years ahead.
Throughout history the seas around us have challenged the lives of islanders. The sea is woven through the traditions of our community, with generations of maritime experience now being channelled into making a success of marine renewables.
From tug crews used to handling shipping in the fast flowing Pentland Firth ... to divers and providers of boats and specialised equipment ... to environmental consultancies well versed in the planning and consenting of projects requiring detailed knowledge of local conditions. Orkney-based expertise is supporting the growing number of developers choosing our waters to give their technologies a first taste of the sea.
We call it the “O” factor. And it underpins Orkney’s global role in the development of marine renewables. See what the people who work here have to say:
"Clearly, Orkney has the resources in terms of the tidal conditions and, of course, the presence of EMEC, but the islands also have a very capable supply chain that can deliver for us. We're benefitting greatly from all of the experience gained by local marine contractors who've been active with EMEC over the past few years. Combined with our novel approach to the technology, that experience is helping us drive down the costs of tidal energy."
David Stoddart-Scott, Sustainable Marine Energy
"Open Hydro have been operational at the EMEC tidal test facility in Orkney since early 2006. To date we have been successful in deploying two Open-Centre turbines in the Fall of Warness, a challenging tidal site. Our success has been largely attributable to the professional support and marine expertise we found to be available in Orkney.
Our offshore support vessesls and associated crews are all based on the islands and we have found the availability of marine supplies and services to be excellent. The successful ongoing maintenance and monitoring of our two deployed tidal devices is dependent on locally accessible support, such as ROV services and workboats. Without the unfailing support of both the marine professional services and local community in Orkney, the marine renewable industry could not have progressed to the stage it is at today."
James Ives, CEO, Open Hydro