A Scottish company has won the contract to build one of the world's most advanced tidal energy turbines.
The contract could kickstart a marine energy manufacturing boom in Britain because project developer ScottishPower wants hundreds more turbines to be built in the next few years, creating the prospect of thousands of jobs for Scotland.
Fife-based BiFab (Burntisland Fabrications), which traditionally has manufactured equipment for the North Sea oil and gas industry, will today be named as winner of the £4m series of contracts. It will build ScottishPower's first full-scale working prototype device, which the company claims is the world's most advanced. The design will be used for the 10MW tidal energy project, the largest in the UK and potentially in the world, in the Sound of Islay, off the west coast of Scotland.
This month ScottishPower submitted a planning application for the project in the fast-moving channel between the islands of Islay and Jura. It intends to tender contracts in two years' time for manufacture of the project's 10 1mw turbines.
ScottishPower has also recently been given a licence by the Crown Estate to develop a 95MW project in the Pentland Firth, which separates the Orkney Islands from Caithness, in the north of Scotland. Manufacturing costs are expected to fall as techniques are refined and contracts for both these projects are likely to be worth more than £100m.
The prototype turbine, which will be built by BiFab in Stornoway, on Lewis, has been developed by Hammerfest Strøm, a joint venture between ScottishPower, Norwegian energy group Statoil and other energy companies.