Scotland is building the world’s largest tidal turbine blades

As the race continues to move away from fossil fuels, and the air pollution they cause, the University of Edinburgh and Orbital Marine Power are looking to cement the UK’s reputation as an offshore powerhouse. 

On Tuesday 17th January 2023, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, paid a visit to the most prestigious seat of learning in Scotland’s capital to witness the launch of a new project aimed at maximising tidal energy generation. 

Princess Anne, who is also the University’s Chancellor, met academic colleagues at the renowned FastBlade facility to learn about the groundbreaking MAXBlade project. Worth around £10m, the undertaking is funded by the European Union and UK Research and Innovation, and will explore a range of innovations to boost performance of turbines while reducing cost. 

The full lifecycle of tidal turbines will be explored, starting with material sourcing and manufacturing and running through operation, decommission and recycling processes. Blade length will increase, from 10 to 13 metres – the longest on the planet – which experts believe will have the single biggest impact on cost. Design and development is expected to take two years, with construction itself estimated at 18-months. A key long-term goal of the project is positioning the European composite sector as the global leader in tidal blade design and build. Meanwhile, the swept area will increase by 70%, to more than 1,000 square metres. 

‘Orbital is delighted to be involved with so many great partners on this truly cutting-edge project. MAXBlade will help deliver tidal energy into a future, low-carbon energy mix at lower costs while, at the same time, position UK & European businesses to benefit from long-term industrial opportunities that will come from this new, sustainable industry,’ said Andrew Scott, Chief Executive Officer at Orbital Marine Power.

‘The University of Edinburgh is delighted to be a partner in the MAXBlade project, where we will demonstrate the unique rapid testing capability of the FastBlade facility. This will help the tidal energy industry to de-risk their ongoing turbine developments and provide low-cost, reliable renewable energy to the grid. We will also lead the development of thermoplastic resins in MAXBlade and the circular economy roadmap needed for future tidal blade manufacturing and recycling,’ added Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of School and Chair of Materials Engineering at Edinburgh University. 

Overall, it is believed the tidal energy sector could contribute £40b to the UK economy if the sector’s full potential is harnessed. In other news from the renewables industry, earlier this month Ripple Energy, which operates the UK’s first consumer-owned wind farm, announced members would save £783 from their energy bills in 2023, up from £275 in the previous year, and are projected to pay upfront costs off a decade early.


Image: Neil Hanna




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