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Firm eyes up Bluemull tidal power bridge

HOPES for a bridge to connect the Shetland islands of Unst and Yell could be realised by a groundbreaking renewable project being spearheaded by an Orkney business.

Stromness-based Aquatera are bringing Dutch engineers to Shetland this week to investigate building a tidal energy device across Bluemull Sound.

The project has been on the drawing board since 2012 and meetings have already been held with island councillors and officials.

The company has even suggested that the bridge, which some estimate could cost around £160 million, could pay for itself without any public funding thanks to the energy it could generate.

Aquatera senior consultant Ian Johnstone
Aquatera senior consultant Ian Johnstone said: “We have been working on this for 18 months to two years now, we have done a feasibility study, spoken to investors and done some tidal monitoring.

“We have discussed it twice with the local council and spoken to landowners, as well as device manufacturers and our engineers.

“What we have in Bluemull Sound is an extremely good tidal resource in deep water and the local people seem to be willing to look at it.”

He said the company was also looking at similar projects in Orkney where they are based and in the Scottish highlands. They also have offices in Chile.

Aquatera are looking at a crossing close to the Gutcher and Belmont ferry terminals.
Johnstone said the concept was new and the only place where a similar idea had been developed was in South Korea.

However he firmly believed operating a tidal energy device from a fixed link was a workable plan.

“One of the issues with tidal devices is getting them in and out of the water because the tide is running most of the time,” he explained.

“One advantage of doing it from a fixed structure is that it makes maintenance much easier.”

On Tuesday Johnstone will be visiting Bluemull Sound with engineers from Dutch firm Antea Group to take a closer look at the possibilities, prior to meetings with Shetland Islands Council on Wednesday.

SIC development director Alastair Cooper said it was clear that Aquatera had already invested a considerable amount of money in the project.

“At the end of the day they have a concept they are wanting to work through and they believe it can be done viably without the local authority financing it,” he said.

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