Tidal energy is providing power to electric vehicles on an island

An electric vehicle charging point that uses tidal power has started operations, providing road users on an island north of mainland Scotland with a new renewable option to power their cars.

The facility is located in Yell, which is part of Shetland, an archipelago of approximately 100 islands. The charging point gets its electricity from Nova Innovation’s Shetland Tidal Array, a four-turbine facility on Bluemull Sound, a strait between Yell and another island called Unst.

In an announcement Monday, Nova Innovation described the project as “the first electric vehicle … charging point where drivers can ‘fill’ directly from a tidal power source.” A battery storage system has also been implemented to ensure a constant supply of vehicles.

The Scottish government is one of many around the world seeking to move away from internal combustion engine vehicles. He wants to phase out the need for new gasoline and diesel trucks and cars by 2030. Funding for Yell’s project comes from Transport Scotland, the country’s transportation agency.

Scotland’s fortresses

Among those reacting to Monday’s announcement about the project in Yell was Fabrice Leveque, WWF Scotland’s head of policy.

“It’s great to see tidal technology being used to help decarbonize part of Scotland’s transport sector on the islands,” he said, adding that Scotland was “well positioned to continue to lead the development of this technology, which will help reduce climate emissions and create green and skilled jobs “.

“Our islands have a wealth of renewable resources, including wind, tidal and solar energy, which when harnessed carefully, could bring multiple economic and social benefits to rural and remote communities in Scotland,” continued Leveque.

The waters around Scotland are home to a number of exciting projects focused on tidal energy. These include the first phase of the development of the MeyGen tidal stream, which uses four 1.5 megawatt turbines. The majority owner of the project is London-listed Simec Atlantis Energy.

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

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

The importance of infrastructure

For countries to increase their supply of electric vehicles in the coming years and move away from gasoline and diesel, it will be crucial to have a reliable and sufficient charging infrastructure.

Proper charging options will also help challenge perceptions surrounding “range anxiety,” a term that refers to the idea that electric vehicles cannot take long trips without losing power and getting stranded.

While Yell’s project is small in scale, it is part of a broader shift focused on the development of charging infrastructure.

The UK’s first concourse dedicated to electric vehicle charging opened last December, for example, while the Volkswagen Group wants to significantly increase the number of charging facilities in Europe, North America and China.


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