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Ageing infrastructure blamed for restricting Scots tidal growth

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Outdated infrastructure is restricting the development of Scotland’s marine energy sector, according to the Scottish government.

Scotland’s marine energy sector is predicted to grow sharply over the coming decade adding £1.1bn to the UK economy and providing an additional 25GW to the grid, according to Scottish government report Maximising the Marine Economy in the Highlands & Islands. 

But the report – carried out by Scottish government agency The Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) – adds that out-of-date infrastructure is holding Scotland back from achieving its true potential. 

“The UK’s wave and tidal energy sector is expected to grow sharply, given the right support,” the report states. “New technology is being developed and tested in the region and there is a need to optimise its value. However, the dated infrastructure to get the energy to market is inhibiting production, innovation, testing and development.”  

HIE suggests that the problem could be overcome with new National Grid connections, constructing marine energy facilities closer to land, and using tidal and wave turbines to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, before transporting the hydrogen instead of the electricity for use elsewhere.   

Fifty per cent of Europe’s wave energy infrastructure is already located in UK waters, and 25% of sites suitable for tidal energy projects lie around the coast of Scotland. If fully developed this tidal resource could produce an additional 10GW for the UK - with new wave energy sites adding a further 15GW. 

Last month, the Scottish Government set up a £10M fund to finance the commercial development of new tidal schemes along the Scottish coast – alongside £30M committed to date by Scottish Government to Wave Energy Scotland (WES) for the developing tidal power innovations.   

The Crown Estate Scotland also extended the current lease of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) testing site in Orkney, Scotland, meaning new tidal turbines will be tested there for next 20 years.  

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