World's most powerful tidal turbine near completion as Scots workers overcome Covid-19 challenges

A Scottish construction yard has produced the main hull of what will become the world’s most powerful and technologically advanced tidal turbine, despite the challenges of lockdown.

Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 11:15 am

Once completed, Orbital Marine Power’s 72m-long O2 turbine will be capable of producing two megawatts of renewable electricity, generated by the ebb and flow of the tide.

It will eventually be installed in the Stronsay Firth, off Orkney.

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Over the past 14 months workers at Gray Fabrication, in Cupar, have put in more than 19,000 hours building four large sections for the structural body of the new device and six other parts that will support two giant turbine blades spanning nearly 60m.

Masked workers at Grey Fabrication yard in Dundee pose with the main body of what will become the world's most powerful tidal turbine, due to be launched next spring once fully assembled
Masked workers at Grey Fabrication yard in Dundee pose with the main body of what will become the world's most powerful tidal turbine, due to be launched next spring once fully assembled

The team has now passed the parts over to Texo Fabrication, in Dundee, where the turbine will be fully assembled ahead of its launch next spring.

The multi-million-pound project is the first commercial turbine to be created for Orbital and marks significant advanced in tidal energy technology.

Andrew Scott, chief executive of Scottish engineering firm Orbital Power, commended the workers.

He said: “Gray Fabrication have done an outstanding job on what is a unique and complex heavy structure – all whilst having to deal with the unplanned challenges of a pandemic.

An artist's impression of Orbital Marine's new O2 turbine, which will generate 2GW of green energy from the ebb and flow of the tide

“The results have been absolutely in keeping with our world-leading technology and are a credit to the workforce there.”

Gray Fabrication has nearly 40 years of experience of heavy fabrication in the offshore oil and gas sector but is now diversifying into renewable energy.

Tom Carswell, director of Gray Fabrication, praised the decision to utilise Scottish expertise and save local jobs

He said: “In this time of uncertainty, with other Scottish and British projects mostly going overseas, it was fantastic that Orbital Marine Power chose to keep this in Scotland.

“This gave both Texo Fabrications in Dundee and ourselves a tremendous boost, safeguarding jobs both here in Fife and Tayside.

“It was good to fire up a new relationship with Texo Dundee and expand on the already marvellous relationship we have with Orbital Marine.”

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Orbital Marine Power, founded in 2002, is focused on the development of technology capable of dramatically reducing the cost of harvesting energy from tidal currents.

Its designs have been under continuous development, including rigorous testing of scaled systems in both tank conditions and open-ocean environments.

The company currently employs 32 staff, with offices in Orkney and Edinburgh.

The device is due to be installed at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, where successful trials of prototypes have already taken place.

The O2 project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the European Regional Development Fund.

Support has also been received through the Oceanera-Net Cofund project.

Ben Miller, senior policy manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, welcomed the development.

He said: “Orbital’s new tidal turbine represents the very best of Scottish renewable energy innovation.

“By generating green jobs and significant supply chain investment, the project is a leading example of what marine renewables can deliver for our economy."

He called for UK government support for the industry to “really capture the economic benefits of this world-leading technology at scale”.

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