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The Guardian/The Observer: Tidal firm heads for higher ground: Brought to you in association with Shell

Felix Lowe

Orkney-based Scotrenewables aims to set the industry standard in tidal renewable energy.

The company, founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Barry Johnston, made the headlines in February after being awarded the inaugural Springboard Award, set up by Shell to support commercially viable and innovative projects by small companies that could lead to greenhouse gas reductions. The free-floating, rotor-based, tidal current energy converter – the Scotrenewables Tidal Turbine – beat off competition from more than 250 entrants around the UK to win the £40,000 prize.

Johnston conceived the concept in 2003 while studying for his PhD in marine renewable energy at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University. The innovation has also won the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Enterprise Fellowship and in 2004 received a £90,000 DTI grant. The three-year development programme has recently garnered a further £150,000 investment from the Carbon Trust to take the project to the next phase. Mark Hamilton, project manager of the project, said: ‘There is strong interest from major energy companies in the development of the technology.’

The predictability and availability of tides make tidal energy more cost-effective than wind turbines, while visual impact is minimal. The estimated UK tidal energy resource is around 18 tetrawatt hours a year, or 5 per cent of the current UK electricity demand.

The completion of a full-scale prototype tidal turbine demonstrator is expected in 2008. The company says the potential for commercialisation is encouraging and the excellent National Grid infrastructure in north Scotland means the UK market could be reached with ease.

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