Islay Energy Trust (IET) held an informative meeting attended by about fifty people on Tuesday 18th November in Bowmore Hall, giving a public update on the progress of their Tidal Energy Project. Opening the meeting, IETâ€™s Chair Philip Maxwell gave an overview of the development to date of this unique partnering of community, academia and industry. The projectâ€™s pre-feasibility study was available to view and the plans for the forthcoming feasibility study were discussed before guest speakers, Dr Toby Sherwin from SAMS, and Dr Alan Owen of Robert Gordon University, were introduced.
Dr Sherwin spoke on 'Climate Change in the West of Scotland; Should We Be Concerned?', updating information from his previous talk for IET in Islay two years ago and presenting graphs showing current trends. The discussion centred on the effects burning fossils fuels has on the earthâ€™s atmosphere. It is Dr Sherwinâ€™s opinion that we should indeed be concerned about climate change; that its effects on our environment will increase and that it is urgent and essential for alternative energy sources to be developed now, as they will be crucial in the near future.
Dr Alan Owen, the IET Tidal Energy Projectâ€™s technical advisor, gave a presentation showing undersea photos and videos taken with an ROV during IETâ€™s Tidal Resources Survey, which was carried out in the Sound of Islay in July 2008. Dr Owen believes that the Sound of Islay is an ideal site for tidal energy harvesting. Islayâ€™s total exploitable marine energy resources could be as much as 500MW, which, given its relative proximity to electricity consumers compared with, for example, the Pentland Firth, represent a substantial strategic resource and is attracting the interest of commercial developers. These resources are concentrated to the west of the Rhinns of Islay, off the Oa and in the Sound of Islay. As a location, the Sound has many advantages, e.g. a manageable five-knot tidal stream, sea bed depths greater than 20m, port facilities, proximity to the electricity grid, no apparent environmental show stoppers, etc., despite grid capacity constraints. Continue reading.....Dr Owen explained the functions and drawbacks associated with the proposed devices saying that as these devices are new technology which have not yet been used in a commercial situation, IETâ€™s project will lead the way with its proposed installation in the Sound of Islay. Dr Owen said, 'Electricity is supplied to Islay, Jura and Colonsay via a single 33kV undersea cable from a point near Tayvallich, Kintyre. The 33kV line is in turn fed from the Port Ann substation near Lochgilphead, where it connects with the Carradale to Inverary 132kV transmission line. The undersea cable to Jura makes landfall at Ardlussa; an overhead line then transits Jura to the southwest tip of the island, where another 33kV undersea cable runs to Port Askaig on Islay. From the north of the island beyond Bunnahabhain an 11kV undersea cable supplies Colonsay. On Islay, a 33kV line serves the areas around Bowmore and Port Ellen, whilst an 11kV line supplies the Rhinns. At present, National Grid capacity is constrained. This is an issue for the Scottish and Westminster Governments, Ofgen, National Grid etc. A solution without additional investment in hardware is technically possible.'
The meetingâ€™s audience was then invited to ask questions, and many relevant points and queries were put to the speakers. Questions were raised concerning climate change and sea levels, fishing grounds and navigation in the Sound of Islay, and issues relating to transmission of tidal energy to the National Grid. A question was asked about whether there would be local employment opportunities as a result of the project. Mr Maxwell replied; 'The Tidal Energy Project would use local labour and businesses whenever possible to install and maintain the tidal energy devices. The devices would be constructed to suit the installation site, and steel fabrication facilities would be needed. Boat hire, divers and transport would be required, creating opportunities for local people.'
This story was written by Susan Campbell and published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.