When you hear the word “turbine,” in conversation, chances are good you’re picturing the same sort of giant windmill-esque apparatuses jutting out of the ground, turning wind into good, clean, fuel. But there’s a new kind of turbine on the block — tidal turbines, that jut out from the ocean and let the water’s currents power its rotor system. And this week, we’re getting what one company calls the “world’s most powerful tidal turbine” which has begun converting the ocean’s waves into electricity.
That’s according to the Orbital Marine Power, a Scottish engineering firm that first launched the 680 metric-ton turbine off the coast of Dundee earlier this year before towing it closer to the European Marine Energy Centre based out of the Orkney Islands in the UK, just north of mainland Scotland. The so-called O2 turbine is currently anchored off the Fall of Warness — a tidal turbine testing site — and connected to a nearby onshore electricity network with the help of some subsea cables.
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” Orbital CEO Andrew Scott said in a statement. CNBC reports that the 74-metre turbine is expected to be churning tides into fuel “for the next 15 years,” and should be capable of meeting the electricity demands of roughly 2,000 homes throughout the UK — and offsetting 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
These current-powered turbines aren’t the only source of alternative energy Scotland’s been harnessing in recent years. As part of the country’s surprisingly fruitful efforts to offset its greenhouse gas emissions, we’ve seen Scotland create truck fuel from distillery waste and plans for entire net-zero neighbourhoods. Meanwhile, the country predicts that it will be adding more than 20,000 jobs over the next decade as it begins building out massive facilities for direct air capture and CO2 removal.
As you might expect for a region that’s surrounded by quite a few bodies of water, Scotland has been tinkering with the concept of sea-based turbines for a while. One recent report from the World Economic Forum found that four tidal turbines had generated enough energy to power close to 4,000 homes throughout 2019. Meanwhile, another monster tidal turbine that was rolled out last year, the AR2000, is expected to crank out enough power for 175,000 homes across Scotland. The tech we need to harness tidal power might still be in its infancy when compared to its land-based counterparts, but those numbers are giving us a pretty good reason to give it a shot.