An image of the £ 4.6 million fastblade facility. Scotland has a long association with oil and gas production in the North Sea, but in recent years it has become a hub for companies and projects focusing on tidal energy and marine energy in general.
Jeff J. Mitchell | Getty Images News | Getty Images
A £ 4.6 million ($ 5.64 million) facility that can test tidal turbine blades in harsh conditions has been officially opened, behind those who hope it will accelerate the development of marine power technology and lower costs.
In a statement late last week, the University of Edinburgh said the site was “the world’s first rapid testing facility for tidal turbine blades.”
It added that the Fastblade facility would use a 75 metric ton feedback frame capable of applying “strong forces to turbine blades longer than 50 feet”.
Fastblade is a partnership between the space agency Babcock International and the university, supported by a £ 1.8 million grant from the UK government. The test center is located in the town of Rosith.
The blades will be tested using a system of powerful hydraulic cylinders that can mimic pressure on structures at sea for less than three months, the university said.
Conchur Ó Brádaigh, head of the university’s School of Engineering, said FastBlade would be “the world’s first dedicated fatigue testing facility for low-turbine blades.”
He added that it would “help Scottish tidal turbine developers maintain a worldwide lead in the competition to find clean and safe energy sources.”
The University of Edinburgh says fastblade technology could also be used to test wing components for aircraft and lightweight bridge departments.
Scotland has a long association with oil and gas production in the North Sea, but in recent years it has become a hub for companies and projects focusing on tidal energy and marine energy in general.
These companies include tidal power company Nova Innovation and Orbital Marine Power, which is operating as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine”.
In waters north of the Scottish mainland, the Arkansas Islands are home to the European Marine Energy Center, or EMEC, where wave and tidal energy developers can test and evaluate their technology in the open sea.
In 2021, European installations of tidal and wave power have jumped, as installations in the offshore energy sector have returned to pre-epidemic levels and investment has increased significantly.
In March, Ocean Energy Europe said that 2.2 MW of tidal power was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kW in 2020. For wave power, 681 kilowatts were installed, which the OEE said tripled.
Worldwide, 1.38 MW of wave power came online in 2021, when 3.12 MW of tidal capacity was installed. Capacity refers to the maximum amount of electricity an electricity installation can generate, not what they are necessarily generating.
Despite the excitement about the potential of marine energy, the footprint of tidal and wave projects remains very small compared to other renewables.
In 2021 alone, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power, according to industry body WindEurope.