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Case Studies

These case studies explore some particular aspects of the Highlands and Islands' new energy industry.

Energy Research

The dramatic emergence of the Highlands and Islands as a major – but still fledgling – player in the deployment of new energy technologies has excited industry and academia worldwide.

Less visible, but equally exciting, is the range of activity by research institutions and others in the area, exploring yet newer renewable energy sources, and also the vital technical, operational, environmental and other implications of energy activity.

Highlands and Islands-based scientists are pushing the boundaries of knowledge in areas spanning generation of energy from algae to creation, storage and use of hydrogen fuel. A big research topic in this naturally resource-rich area relates to environmental impacts of energy production and – also not unexpectedly, given the nature of this area – topics like energy implications for buildings are coming under scrutiny.

View Energy Research Case Study

Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters

The waves and currents of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters have an awesome destructive power, known and feared by mariners for centuries.

But now they offer an equally impressive productive power, for electricity generation, off the northern tip of mainland Britain.

View Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Case Study

The Growth of Wind Power

The Highlands and Islands area’s disproportionate share of Europe’s wind resource, making the region’s onshore turbines the most productive in Britain, has helped drive the industry’s rapid evolution.

Windpower generation, currently the area’s fastest-growing renewables sector, has progressed from initial experimental activity, through a rapidly expanding range of commercial and community developments.

Natural assets are being augmented by a substantial skills and technologies base, stemming from a long history in the oil and gas and other engineering-related industries.

View The Growth of Wind Power Case Study

From Research to Realisable Assets

Greenspace Live, a commercial spinout based in the Outer Hebrides, is meeting new market demand with its web portal-based software which allows organisations to monitor the energy performance of their buildings.

View the From Research to Realisable Assets Case Study

Marine developments fuelled by fresh investment

Five companies are driving forward high-potential renewables projects, having won the bulk of a £15 million national award ‘pot’ to boost marine generation technologies development.

Together awarded £13 million from the fund, all are active in the Highlands and Islands. Their projects exemplify the pioneering technologies fuelling the region’s momentum, and its global reputation as a ‘new energy’ hub.

They address challenges of large-scale wave power generation, inter-connection of tidal energy arrays, and building, deploying and demonstrating differing types of wave and tidal device.

The July 2010 awards were made from the WATERS fund (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support), a collaboration between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, with European funding support.

View the Marine developments fuelled by fresh investment case study

Innovation Snapshots – Quick Look

View the Innovation Snapshots case study

Reviving a ‘Sleeping Giant’ Fabrication Yard

A combination of private and public sector vision and investment looks set to revitalise a ‘sleeping giant’ fabrication yard in the Scottish Highlands.

The massive Kishorn yard and dry dock, created more than 30 years ago to build super-sized structures including the world’s largest man-made moveable object – the 600,000 tonne Ninian oil platform – has lain practically dormant for heavy industry since the early 1990’s

Now, however, the Wester Ross facility has been earmarked for a key potential role in the imminent offshore wind turbine construction boom and the emerging wave and tidal generation industry.

View the Kishorn Port case study

Offshore Wind: Securing the benefits

Scotland, and the Highlands and Islands in particular, undoubtedly hold a formidable share of natural renewable energy resources, not least in the rapidly advancing offshore wind, wave and tidal sectors.

The surrounding seas boast up to a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal potential, and a tenth of its wave power capacity.

View the Offshore Wind case study

Creating an energy hub in Argyll

A powerful set of technological, geographic and commercial factors is driving plans to transform a part of Argyll into a versatile ‘energy hub’ for immediate and longer term renewables operations.

View the Argyll Energy Hub case study

AWS Case Study

When AWS Ocean Energy located to the Scottish Highlands in its quest to develop the world’s most efficient, reliable wavepower device, it was primarily for dispassionate, commercial reasons.

But the people behind AWS also take a more personal, vocational approach to renewable technology and its socio-economic contribution.

And, through that combination of practicality and passion, the Inverness-based marine energy company has taken its development programme from a concept-proving prototype to the verge of producing a high output, commercial scale device, fit for use offshore by big power utilities.

The development process has involved a determined, practical vision, persistent technological innovation, considerable private sector partnership and invaluable public sector support.

View the AWS Ocean Energy case study

At the Frontiers of Technology and Sustainability

Britain’s biggest and toughest gas field project is bringing its own particular challenges and economic benefits for the energy-rich Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

It is also stimulating new approaches to environmental sustainability.

View the At the Frontiers of Technology and Sustainability Case Study


Wave and tidal stream energy is electricity generated from the movement of wave and tidal flows.

Wave power is much more predictable than wind power – and it increases during the winter, when electricity demand is at its highest. Tidal stream energy is also predictable and consistent.

It is estimated the UK has around 50% of Europe’s tidal energy resource, and a study in 2004 estimated the UK’s technical resource at around 16 terawatts per hour per year (TWh/year) (4% of overall supply).

Wave and tidal stream potential

Wave and tidal stream energy has the potential to meet up to 20% of the UK’s current electricity demand, representing a 30-to-50 gigawatt (GW) installed capacity.

Between 200 and 300 megawatts (MWs) of generation capacity may be able to be deployed by 2020, and at the higher end of the range, up to 27GWs by 2050 (see the Renewable Energy Roadmap).

The UK is currently seen as a world leader and focal point for the development of wave and tidal stream technologies because it has an abundance of marine energy resource.

With its excellent marine resource and its expertise in oil and gas exploration, the UK is in a unique position to benefit from this type of renewable energy – and to develop related wave and tidal stream services. The industry is still in its early stages however, and further research is needed to determine how best to exploit these assets.

Tidal range potential

Studies have estimated the UK’s total theoretical tidal range resource at between 25 and 30GWs – enough to supply around 12% of current UK electricity demand. The majority of this is in the Severn estuary (which has between 8 and 12GW), with the estuaries and bays of the north west representing a similar amount and the east coast a further 5 to 6GW.

The 2-year cross-government Severn tidal power feasibility study could not see a strategic case for public investment in a Severn tidal scheme in the immediate term, though private sector groups are continuing to investigate the potential. Other potential projects assessed by developers at sites around the UK include the Mersey, the Solway Firth and the North Wales coast.


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