Orbital Marine Power’s O2 turbine in the Orkney Islands, north of the Scottish mainland, in September 2021. Scotland has become a hub for companies and projects focusing on tidal power and marine energy in general.
William Edwards | AFP | Getty pictures
Scottish engineering firm Orbital Marine Power said on Monday it had secured £ 8m ($ 9.64m) in funding to “finance the ongoing operation” of its O2 tidal turbine, as another step forward for the fledgling tidal power sector.
In a statement, Orbital Marine Power said £ 4 million had come from the Scottish National Investment Bank, which was set up by the Scottish Government in November 2020. The remaining £ 4 million comes from Abundance Investment through more than 1,000 individual investors.
“These debt facilities will be serviced by the long-term sale of electricity from the turbine, expected at around 100 gigawatt hours of clean predictable energy, delivered to the UK grid or hydrogen electrolysers over the life of the project,” said Orbital.
According to Orbital Marine Power, its 2 megawatt O2 weighs 680 tons and has a 74 meter hull structure. The company describes O2, which uses 10 meters of wings and started grid-connected electricity production last year, as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine.”
Mark Munro, CEO of SNIB, said its investment in Orbital was in line with its “mission to support home-grown innovation and the equitable energy transition.”
“The company’s unique and scalable approach to tidal current energy has an important role to play in the journey towards net zero,” Munro added.
Scotland has had a long association with the North Sea’s oil and gas production, but in recent years it has also become a hub for companies and projects with a focus on tidal power and marine energy in general.
Orkney, an archipelago in the waters north of the Scottish mainland, is home to the European Marine Energy Center. At EMEC, developers of wave and tidal energy can test and evaluate their technology on the high seas. Orbital’s O2 turbine is in an EMEC location.
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 increased in 2021, as the marine energy sector saw proliferation return to pre-pandemic levels and a significant increase in investment.
In March, Ocean Energy Europe said that 2.2 megawatts of tidal power capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kilowatts in 2020. For wave energy, 681 kW was installed in Europe in 2021, which the OEE said was a tripling compared to 2020 .
Globally, 1.38 MW of wave energy came online in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal power capacity was installed.
While there is enthusiasm for the potential of ocean energy, the overall size of tidal currents and wave projects is still very small compared to other renewable energy sources.
In 2021 alone, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity, according to figures from the industry body WindEurope.