The move is the first part of what looks set to be one of Europe’s major tidal energy installations. Scottish ministers recently granted permission for the turbines to be set, following a successful test.
Once the six turbines are put in place, many more are due to be installed. The project aims to eventually have more than 50 off the coast.
Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, welcomed the initiative and said: “Harnessing the huge energy in the tides of the Pentland Firth is a major engineering challenge, but this scheme will prove technologies and techniques which will be important in future tidal energy schemes around the world.”
The benefits of tidal energy
Unlike windfarms, water turbines create a more constant stream of energy and do not attract as much public criticism as they are less visible. The downside is that the technology used is less developed and consequently more expensive.
Speaking on the project, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “We must tackle climate change. We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through better and more efficient uses of energy. Marine energy – a homegrown technology with huge potential – is part of the solution.”
Scottish ministers have previously stated that waters just off Scotland’s northern coast, have the potential to create as much energy as three of the UK’s biggest coal powered stations combined.
Slow progress on Scotland’s renewable front
The news comes just days after a report by the Auditor General warned that First Minister Alex Salmond’s job figure estimates for the renewable sector were two thirds off.
Salmond has heavily backed renewable energy schemes and has set a target of 2020 to have the equivalent of 100% of the nation’s energy generated by renewable sources.
Last week, Ewing admitted that renewable projects were being rolled out at a slower rate than anticipated.