Photo: Orbital's O2 tidal turbine (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

Orbital’s first commercial tidal turbine starts exporting clean power to UK grid

Orbital Marine Power’s O2, deemed the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, has started grid-connected power generation offshore Orkney in Scotland. The turbine is also set to provide power for green hydrogen generation to facilitate decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.

Photo showing Orbital's O2 tidal turbine (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)
Orbital’s O2 tidal turbine (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

The innovative, floating turbine is anchored at the European Marine Energy Centre’s (EMEC’s) Fall of Warness site, where a subsea cable connects the 2MW offshore unit to the local onshore electricity network.

Manufactured and launched in Dundee earlier in the year before being towed up to Orkney, the O2 is Orbital’s first commercial turbine and represents the culmination of more than 15 years of product development.

The 74-metre-long turbine is expected to operate in the waters off Orkney for the next 15 years with the capacity to meet the annual electricity demand of around 2,000 UK homes with clean, predictable power from the fast-flowing waters.

In a further ground-breaking element of the project, the O2 is to provide power to an onshore electrolyser to generate green hydrogen that will be used to demonstrate decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.

Andrew Scott, Orbital’s CEO, said: “This is a major milestone for the O2 and I would like to commend the whole team at Orbital and our supply chain for delivering this pioneering renewable energy project safely and successfully. 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”.

The 10-metre blades give the O2 more than 600m2 of swept area to capture flowing tidal energy (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)
The 10-metre blades give the O2 more than 600m2 of swept area to capture flowing tidal energy (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

The construction of the O2 turbine was enabled by public lenders through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment, as well as being supported by the Scottish Government by the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund.

Commenting on the news, Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for net-zero and energy Michael Matheson said:

“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally-placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy. That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years, including through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge fund, which provided £3.4 million for this project.

“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net-zero. I congratulate Orbital Marine, EMEC and everyone who has made this achievement possible”.

Commercialisation and the next steps for Orbital

O2 turbine features twin 1MW power generating nacelles at the end of retractable leg structures designed to give low-cost access to all major components (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)
O2 turbine features twin 1MW power generating nacelles at the end of retractable leg structures designed to give low-cost access to all major components (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

Orbital is now setting its sights on commercialising its technology through the deployment of multi-MW arrays.

Supporting this endeavour in UK waters would bring substantial benefits beyond complimenting the clean energy transition, as evidenced in the build of the O2 – where around 80% of the turbine was delivered by UK suppliers and operation will bring long term employment to coastal communities, according to the company.

As a product, the commercialisation costs are projected to fall steeply from roll-out of the technology as previously demonstrated with wind and solar energy.

On the next steps for the company, Scott said: “We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come”.

By providing clean power to the UK grid, the O2 is expected to offset approximately 2,200 tonnes of CO2 production per year, contributing to the the decarbonisation efforts both in UK and worldwide.

The O2 project has been supported through funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the FloTEC project and the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg North West Europe Programme under the ITEG project.

This project has also received support under the framework of the OCEANERA-NET COFUND project and co-funding by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.