The world’s largest tidal-powered energy farm could be built off the coast of Northern Ireland, it was announced today.
Three sites are under investigation — one here and two off Scotland’s coastline — for up to 60 underwater turbines, generating 60 mega watts of power for 40,000 homes.
ScottishPower, the energy firm behind the plans, said the technology could make Scotland the global leader in the field.
Director of the firm’s renewable arm Keith Anderson said: “This is a historic day for the development of marine energy.
“The rapid technological advancement of tidal power has enabled us to progress plans for this substantial project.
“It has real potential to deliver significant environmental and economic benefits.”
The announcement came as the Crown Office opened parts of the sea bed for leasing to developers.
The tide-turbines are expected to be weighed to the floor of the sea in the Pentland Firth between the Scottish mainland and Orkney, in the Sound of Islay and off the coast of Co Antrim.
The structures stand 30 metres tall on three legs and can work as deep as 100 metres below sea level with the ability to turn to harness tide movements.
The 20-metre blades would turn at least 10 metres below the surface to avoid shipping, developers said.
ScottishPower said tests in Norway proved the turbine blades moved slowly enough for marine life to avoid them.
Mr Anderson added: “Tidal power is completely renewable, being driven by the gravity of the sun and moon, with no carbon dioxide emissions.”