Tidal power, perhaps the poorest relation of the renewable energy sector, will take a substantial leap forward with a major new undersea development off the west coast of Scotland, announced on Thursday.
An array of 10 tidal turbines, the largest, and indeed the first of its kind in the world, is to be installed on the seabed in the Sound of Islay, the channel between the islands of Islay and Jura.
The £40-million scheme will be able to generate electricity for more than 5,000 homes - double the number of residences on Islay.
It is envisaged that the electricity it will produce – 10 megawatts – will be enough to power the whole of Islay, including three of the island's 10 world-famous whisky distilleries. The drinks multinational Diageo, owner of the Lagavulin, Caol Ila and Port Ellen distilleries, has already signed a commercial agreement to take the power the tidal array produces.
The Scottish government has approved the £40-million plan from ScottishPower Renewables (SPR), which seeks to take advantage of the strong tidal flows and shelter from storms offered by the narrow sound, only half a mile wide at its narrowest point, It was selected after a UK-wide survey.
''With around a quarter of Europe's potential tidal energy resource and a tenth of the wave capacity, Scotland's seas have unrivalled potential to generate green energy, create new, low carbon jobs, and bring billions of pounds of investment to Scotland,'' said Scotland's finance and sustainable growth secretary John Swinney. ''This development – the largest tidal array in the world – does just that, and will be a milestone in the global development of tidal energy.''