A TIDAL TURBINE array in the north of Scotland set a new world record for generating power and exporting it into the national grid.

Simec Atlantis Energy's Meygen four turbine set-up in the Pentland Firth has generated 12 gigawatt(GW) hours of electricity since it was switched on last April - enough to power almost 9,000 homes.

This beats a previous record set by Seagen in Strangford Lough, an inlet in County Down, Northern Ireland.

Simec Atlantis Energy's Chief Executive Tim Cornelius broke the news to staff, saying: "Meygen has now exported more than 12GWh of tidal energy to the grid in Scotland, surpassing the previous record held by SeaGen in Strangford Lough (11.6 GWh). "Congratulations to all involved. Onwards."

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The Pentland Firth, between Caithness and the uninhabited island of Stroma, has some of the fastest flowing waters in the UK.

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Simec's turbines are driven by the powerful flowing tides which surge through between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean each day.

Meygen is the largest tidal turbine project active the Britain, and is currently in phase one of a 25-year development cycle.

The first turbine was installed in 2017, with the others completed last year.

Each of the massive machines rests on foundations on the sea bed weighing between 250 and 350 tonnes, and is attached to six ballast blocks weighing 1,200 tonnes.

Environmental monitoring equipment is installed to assess any interaction between the tidal turbines and the marine environment, including marine mammals, while cables come ashore through tunnels drilled in the bedrock.

It is estimated the seas around the UK could one day be capable of generating 20 per cent of all electricity needs.

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Last year the think tank Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult said that the tidal stream industry could generate £1.4 billion for the UK and support  22,600 jobs by 2040, focused mostly in Scotland

At the same time, wave energy could contribute £4 billion to the UK economy and support 8,100 jobs by 2040.

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The final phase of the Meygen project, which already has planning permission, would see an additional 49 turbines built in the Firth at an estimated cost of £420m and the creation of an entire industry in the north to support them.

Simec Atlantis Energy say that the project will be "transformational" for the tidal energy industry, providing the necessary scale to justify the establishment of turbine manufacturing facilities at Global Energy’s facility in Nigg Energy Park.

The record-breaking turbines are the latest in a series of tidal power developments in Scotland, once described by former First Minister Alex Salmond as the "Saudi Arabia" of tidal power.

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Last year a green energy project in Shetland became the world’s first fully operational grid-connected ‘baseload’ tidal power station, using cutting-edge batteries from international tech firm Tesla to enable a predictable supply of renewable energy to be fed into the network.

Hannah Smith, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said that news coming out of the industry showed that the technology worked.

She said: "This milestone for the tidal energy industry once again demonstrates the untapped potential of this emerging sector.

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"Scotland’s remarkable marine energy resource has placed us front and centre in developing an industry with global ambitions.

"Simec Atlantis Energy’s achievement with Meygen is remarkable, and paves the way for marine energy to become a mainstream part of Scotland’s energy mix while cutting carbon and delivering jobs and investment to our remote communities.

"To keep driving progress it’s critical that both Scottish and UK governments recognise the potential of these technologies and work with industry to fully commercialise this promising sector."

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