Energy Hub plans boosted by feedback

August 4, 2011
Developer, News, Utility

A Thurso-based company which is gearing up to build and operate a marine energy control centre has been boosted by industry feedback to its plans.


An independent study has elicited backing for the concept being developed by Marine 5, an offshoot of IT specialists Navertech.


The company is now seeking to address issues flagged up by utilities involved in the multi-billion pound plans to tap the wave and tidal power reserves of thePentland Firthand waters off Orkney.


Marine 5 last year unveiled its outline proposal to create a £7.5 million central control centre and associated engineering hub and exhibition centre. It believes the venture has the potential to employ up to 150 and to provide alternative prospects for workers whose jobs are going at the Dounreay nuclear plant.


The feasibility study was carried out for Marine 5 by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI), with funding from a Government business innovation grant.


Navertech’s commercial director Willie MacGillivray, a director of Marine 5, said the results have been encouraging. He said yesterday: “The ERI spoke with a number of utilities and developers involved in the marine power ventures here. “They all expressed interest in what we are planning but said they need more information.”


The main unresolved issues were whether or not the centre would require to look on to the waters. The companies also want proof that the venture would save them money.


Mr McGillivray said: “The concerns raised are valid and did not  come in any way as a shock to us. “The results of the study mirror the discussions we have had with a number of the companies.” Marine 5 believes it is essential that the centre does look on to the waters where the turbines are located.


Said Mr McGillivray: “From our experience in the nuclear industry, we know public perception is very important. “They want to know that somebody can see what is going on and that it’s not an individual sitting in a distant control room. “The marine environment is a very complex one and, with the very changeable weather and sea conditions we have here, we think a visual link is required.”


Mr McGillivray is also certain the developers will save significant sums by linking into a central control room, rather than each operating their own set-up. He said this would also improve the co-ordination of the shutdown of the sub-sea turbines in an emergency. Mr McGillivray however concedes that Marine 5 needs to do more work to satisfy their potential customer on both counts.


The ERI study also examined a number of potential sites for the centre on either side of the firth.


Currently, Marine 5 is planning a single building though the control centre and engineering hub could end up in separate locations. Another issue is whether a dry dock needs to be factored in.


Mr McGillivray said the final blueprint will emerge after it incorporates the feedback it receives from the developers, utilities and the local supply chain.


Marine 5 is happy Caithness has the engineering companies and skilled labour pool needed to staff the centre. He said: “The skills are already available here – all that is needed is to adjust the mindset to a marine environment.”


He revealed that it has had a number of approaches from potential investors in its scheme, which aims to go live by 2015.

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