On an island north of Scotland, Tidal Power supplies juice for electric vehicles

An electric vehicle charging station using tidal energy has gone into operation, offering road users a new, renewable option to run their cars on an island north of mainland Scotland.

The facility is located on Yell, part of the Shetland Islands, an archipelago with around 100 islands. The charging station draws its power from Nova Innovation’s Shetland Tidal Array, an installation with four turbines in Bluemull Sound, a strait between Yell and another island called Unst.

In an announcement on Monday, Nova Innovation described the project as “the first charging station for electric vehicles … where drivers can” refuel “directly from a tidal energy source.” A battery storage system was also used to ensure a constant supply of the vehicles.

The Scottish Government is one of many around the world looking to move away from internal combustion engine vehicles. The demand for new diesel and gasoline vans and cars is slated to cease by 2030. Funding for the project on Yell was provided by Transport Scotland, the country’s transport agency.

Scotland’s strengths

Among those who responded to Yell’s announcement on Monday about the project was Fabrice Leveque, Head of Politics at WWF Scotland.

“It is great to see that tidal technology is being used to decarbonise part of the Scottish transport sector in the islands,” he said, adding that Scotland “is well positioned to continue to lead the way in developing this technology qualified, green jobs will help reduce climate emissions and help create them. “

“Our islands have an abundance of renewable resources, including wind, tides and sun, which, if used carefully, can bring numerous economic and social benefits to remote and rural communities across Scotland,” added Leveque.

There are a number of interesting projects dealing with tidal power in the waters around Scotland. This includes the first phase of the development of the MeyGen tidal current, in which four 1.5 megawatt turbines are used. The majority owner of the project is Simec Atlantis Energy, which is listed in London.

While the potential of ocean energy is exciting, its current footprint remains small. Recent figures from Ocean Energy Europe (OEE) show that last year only 260 kilowatts (kW) of tidal power capacity was added in Europe while only 200 kW of wave power was installed. According to the WindEurope industry association, 14.7 gigawatts of wind energy capacity were installed in Europe in 2020.

While tides have a long way to go to catch up with other renewable sources like wind and sun, they have one potential advantage: predictability. Tidal currents, says OEE, “are caused by the gravitational forces of the sun and moon.” The fact that tidal energy production is influenced by “known cycles of the moon, sun and earth” rather than weather means “it is predictable hundreds of years in advance”.

The importance of infrastructure

If countries want to expand their range of electric vehicles in the coming years and move away from gasoline and diesel, a reliable and adequate charging infrastructure is of crucial importance.

Appropriate charging options also help to question the perception of “range anxiety”. This term refers to the idea that electric vehicles cannot make long journeys without losing power and being stranded.

While the project on Yell is small, it is part of a larger relocation focused on developing charging infrastructure.

The UK’s first forecourt for charging electric vehicles, for example, opened last December, while the Volkswagen Group plans to significantly increase the number of charging stations in Europe, North America and China.

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