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Shetland wave farm plans fade

Not making waves. Two Pelamis wave generators being tested at the European Marine Energy Centre, off Stromness.

ANTICIPATION that a major wave farm would one day be installed off Shetland’s south west coast has died down after one of the partners went out of business last week.

Leith-based Pelamis Wave Power called in the administrators on Friday blaming a lack of investment.

The world leading wave power company had been working with Swedish energy giant Vattenfall to set up a 10MW pilot project six miles off Bigton.

Two years ago they held public meetings in the isles after initial tests showed that Shetland had some of the best potential for wave energy in Europe, and talked of a planning application being submitted this year. 

But activity on the project has slowed as Vattenfall became concerned about whether an interconnector would ever be built to export electricity from Shetland to the Scottish mainland.

The company has also become impatient with the slow pace of technological development in the wave sector.

A spokesman this week said the fate of Pelamis would add to their concerns about the future of the Aegir project.

“Vattenfall believes that the wave sector has serious long term potential therefore we hope the administrators will find an investor to commercialise this world leading technology,” he said.

“The progress of the sector has led Vattenfall to review its interest in ocean energy, including Aegir, through 2014 and the news of PWP entering into administration is an additional factor that will be taken into consideration.”

Shetland Islands Council development committee chairman Alastair Cooper suggested it may be some time before Shetland has a wave farm.

“Shetland obviously has significant wave resources around our coastline. There will be a time when technology exists for this to be properly harnessed and we await further developments in this area with interest,” he said.

The council has a memorandum of understanding with Vattenfall and Shetland Charitable Trust for Aegir, but it has no money invested in the project.

This week MSPs at Holyrood have been arguing for the Scottish government to step in and rescue Pelamis, which has suffered a financial squeeze since a deal with German energy giant E.ON fell through last year due to the slow pace of technological progress.

On Tuesday Orkney MSP Liam McArthur joined the Scottish Greens in calling on energy minister Fergus Ewing to rescue the firm.

However instead of providing any such reassurance in Holyrood, Ewing said that the government would be offering jobs to some of the 56 Pelamis employees to work at the new development body Wave Energy Scotland.

Ewing said: “I am aware that the employees of Pelamis are some of the most advanced in terms of the engineering solutions for the wave energy sector.

“Wave Energy Scotland will be able to provide opportunities for employment for some of those experts in the sector.

“It will not be possible for Wave Energy Scotland to employ the numbers on the scale of the head count at Pelamis.

“But we do hope to seek to retain the best brains in Scotland.”

This year Pelamis celebrated the 10th anniversary of installing the world’s first grid-connected offshore wave power machine at Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre.

Blair Nimmo and Gary Fraser of KPMG have now been appointed joint administrators and hope to sell the business.