Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Shetland’s waves excite developers

Vattenfall's Jorgen Josefsson (centre) told SIC development chairman Alastair Cooper (left) and Shetland Charitable Trust vice chairman Jonathan Wills he is impressed with the local waves. Pic. Millgaet Media

SHETLAND has one of the best wave energy resources in Europe, according to Swedish power company Vattenfall after a 12 month study into the proposed Aegir wave farm.

The company is now planning two public meetings this month to kick off a round of consultation with environmental groups and fishing organisations over its ambitious plans to build its first commercial wave farm six miles off Bigton.

As early as 2014 the company hopes to submit a planning application for 14 wave generators stretched across a two square kilometre area in the Burra Haaf fishing grounds.

Vattenfall and co-developer Pelamis see the 10 megawatt project as a pilot, which they hope will open the door to further marine energy business in partnership with the island community as well as further afield.

However any development in Shetland must wait until a subsea cable connects the isles to the national electricity grid, which will not take place before 2017 as it depends on the planned Viking Energy wind farm being built.

Visiting Shetland on Tuesday, Vattenfall’s Jörgen Josefsson and Harvey Appelbe said they had been surprised at the potential power of the waves off Shetland, where they are pioneering their ambitious ocean energy development programme.

“We were predicting 32 or 33 kilowatts per metre, but this year it’s averaged 40 – that’s right up there with western Ireland and the western isles, though neither of those places have good data on them yet,” Appelbe enthused.

He admitted it was a challenging environment in which to work – one of two measurement buoys recently loosed its moorings – but the company is optimistic.

Now they want to consult with local people, the fishing industry and environmental agencies as they start working up their planning application.

Two public sessions have been organised in Bigton community hall on Monday 26 November and the following afternoon at Scalloway’s NAFC Marine Centre. Both events will run from 5pm to 8pm.

The NAFC has already contributed valuable seabed survey data to the Aegir project over the past 12 months.

“Now we want to get more detail on the ecology and fishing activity, and to put it all together to come up with the best proposal,” Appelbe said.

Shetland Islands Council’s development committee chairman Alastair Cooper accepted the wave farm would throw up concerns for fishermen and marine creatures from birds to whales.

But he is excited about the potential for “quite significant spin offs”, such as research and development jobs in Shetland.

The council could assist by talking to government, particularly over transmission charges that currently mitigate against exporting power from any Scottish island, he said.

Shetland Charitable Trust vice chairman Jonathan Wills added that Aegir could open up community investment opportunities, similar to the trust’s partnership in Viking Energy.

“This ticks all the boxes, it’s environmentally acceptable, it doesn’t cause pollution, it reduces Shetland’s massive dependence on fossil fuels.

“I can’t see any downside, though obviously it has to come to an accommodation with the fishing industry because they are both using the same area, but that area of overlap can I think be minimised to mutual advantage.”

Vattenfall hopes to install its first experimental one megawatt Pelamis wave generator at the European Marine Energy Centre, in Stromness, Orkney, in 2014.