Whiskey distilleries using the electricity generated by underwater turbines

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Whiskey distilleries in an archipelago west of mainland Scotland could soon be powered by electricity from underwater turbines.

Tidal energy company Nova Innovation said Wednesday it will install the turbines between the islands of Jura and Islay, which are part of the Inner Hebrides. The move will be another example of how ocean energy can play a role in decarbonizing communities and businesses.

The idea is that the 3 megawatt (MW) “Oran na Mara” project will reduce the islands’ dependence on fossil fuels by adding renewable electricity to the grid.

This electricity is made available to the whiskey distilleries – Islay has nine, while Jura has one – via a direct connection or via the electricity grid.

Crown Estate Scotland, which manages marine, coastal, rural and commercial real estate, has provided Nova Innovation with an option agreement for the project, allowing the company to begin development work. If everything goes according to plan, the project could run until 2022.

There are a number of interesting projects in the waters around Scotland that focus on marine energy. For example, the Orkney Archipelago is home to the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC), where wave and tidal energy developers can test and evaluate their technology at sea.

The projects at the center are diverse and focus on a range of technologies and innovations.

For example, in November last year, EMEC announced that it would deploy a 1.8 megawatt hour flow battery at a tidal energy test site on Eday Island in Orkney.

At the time, EMEC said the system would store electricity generated by tidal turbines during “high power periods” and then discharge it during low power periods.

Oceans of Potential, but work still needs to be done

The International Energy Agency has stated that “power generation from marine technologies” increased by an estimated 13% in 2019.

While this is positive, the IEA adds that measures to encourage research and development “are needed to achieve further cost reductions and large-scale development”.

According to Ocean Energy Europe, only 1.52 MW tidal power capacity was added in Europe in 2019 to focus solely on tidal and wave power. For the wave energy, the additions were 0.6 MW.

In order to put these figures into context, the industry association WindEurope installed a wind power capacity of 15.4 gigawatts in Europe in 2019.