A Scottish tidal energy specialist has won Scottish Government backing for its bid to develop a pioneering turbine manufacturing plant that could help Scotland become a leader in the field.

Nova Innovation has won £2 million funding for a project it says will develop the first European assembly line to mass manufacture tidal turbines.

The award comes as energy giant SSE prepares to ramp up investment in Scotland by tripling the generating capacity of a windfarm in the Highlands.

Perth-based SSE said the plan to add up to 20 turbines to the Achany windfarm in Sutherland would make a significant contribution to the movement towards green energy in Scotland and provide a boost to the local economy.

It held out the prospect that the Achany windfarm extension would create local jobs and opportunities for local businesses to win contracts.

The projects planned by Nova Innovation and SSE will be monitored closely in Scotland amid disappointment that investment in renewable energy facilities has yet to provide the boost to the wider supply chain and jobs on the scale that was hoped for.

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SSE faced criticism for awarding manufacturing contracts connected with the £3 billion Seagreen windfarm it is developing off Scotland to firms based outside Scotland.

However, SSE boss Alistair Phillips-Davies has insisted the group has worked hard to ensure companies in Scotland get a fair share of work on its projects.

SSE has bid for more offshore licences in the landmark ScotWind, which closed to applications last month after generating strong interest from a range of firms including oil and gas giants.

Crown Estate Scotland required ScotWind applicants to show how they plan to help develop the supply chain in the country.

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Nova Innovation expects the support provided by the Scottish Government will help the firm play an important role in the sector as it moves on from the development phase.

The funding will support a project to develop a facility that would be suitable for volume manufacturing of turbines and for work on related shipping and deployment technologies.

Nova is looking at potential sites in Scotland. If the company opens a manufacturing plant it would expect to double employee numbers within the next three years, to 70, from 35 currently.

Nova chief executive Simon Forrest said the Scottish Government support was significant and very welcome as the company and the wider sector “shift onto an industrial footing”. He added: “It is an endorsement of Nova’s global ambition to transform the power of our seas into clean, predictable energy, empowering coastal communities all around the world.”

Nova said tidal energy costs are falling rapidly as the sector scales up. The global market size of tidal energy by 2050 could be up to £126 billion.

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Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero in the Scottish Government, said that Scotland is ideally-placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy. He thinks Nova’s project marks an important milestone in commercialising the sector.

Nova developed what it describes as the world’s first offshore tidal array in Shetland in 2016, featuring turbines installed on the seabed. The array has been powering homes and businesses for over five years.

The company won a contract in 2019 to supply 15 turbines for use in Canada.

Success in the tidal turbine industry could provide Scotland with compensation for disappointments suffered by wave power firms in the last decade. Pelamis and Aquamarine Power went into administration after developing technology which appeared promising.

SSE Renewables’ Achany windfarm has 19 turbines, which generate 38 Megawatts, and lies around three miles north of the village of Rosehall in Sutherland. The proposed extension will feature up to 20 turbines and be expected to generate in excess of 80MW. - enough to power around 72,000 homes.

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The company said: “The operational wind farm at Achany has been a considerable success, delivering 38MW of renewable energy … and contributing hundreds of thousands of pounds to local organisations through our community investment fund.”

It said the turbines it plans to install in the windfarm extension would measure 149.9 metres at tip height, meaning there would be no need for visible aviation lights.