While solar and wind energy seem to be the primary sustainable energy sources mentioned in the media, tidal energy is actually more predictable. Tides can be timed in perpetuity throughout the year, whereas predicting when the wind will blow and when the sun will shine is far harder.
In a world-first, a data center in Scotland will set the bar for tidal arrays in the future. Renewable energy technology developer Simec Atlantis has turbines capturing the natural flow of water between Scotland’s northeast coast and the uninhabited island of Stroma.
There are reports that Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are interested in utilizing the technology for their data, as well. With all of the data crunching these kinds of companies do, large data centers are necessary. The issue is how much power these data centers need to use to keep our favorite websites and services up and running. Therefore, it makes sense to power them in a renewable way.
Tim Cornelius, CEO of SIMEC Atlantis Energy, said, “data is being touted as the new oil. It is arguably becoming the world’s most valuable resource, and the amount of data requiring storage is increasing at a staggering pace. However, data centres are undeniably power hungry, and the clients of data centre operators are rightly demanding power be sourced from renewable and sustainable sources.”
SIMEC Atlantis’ tidal energy site will be in Caithness in Scotland. It is expected to be the biggest tidal energy project globally once opened in 2024. However, SIMEC Atlantis northeast will not confirm which ‘world-leading data center operators’ they are talking to and signing deals with.
The company leases parts of the seabed off Scotland’s northern coast. They will be installing forty new turbines on the seabed, which will be adding 80MW to the capacity they already have installed. In 2010, the company was granted the option to develop a tidal stream project that would be given license to install up to 398MW of capacity.
They currently have the first phase — MeyGen Phase 1A — operational, which saw the deployment of four 1.5MW turbines. On their website they describe the complexities of their world-leading tidal turbines:
“Each turbine is located on an individual foundation between 250 and 350 tonnes coupled with six ballast blocks weighing 1,200 tonnes, that provide horizontal stability over the lifetime of the turbine. Each turbine has a dedicated subsea array cable laid directly on the seabed and brought ashore via a horizontal directionally drilled borehole within the foreshore bedrock.”
The MayGen array has the potential to influence electrical engineering industries all across the globe and get tidal energy powering critical infrastructure in sectors that make the world turn. Electrical engineers can also sleep easy knowing that new jobs will be opening in the renewable energy industry soon. The CEO of SIMEC Atlantis, Tim Cornelius said:
“At MeyGen we have many of the ingredients to provide clean power to the data center, including a large grid connection agreement, proximity to international fiber-optic connection and persistent cool weather. We also believe that Scotland can play a key role in the global data center industry thanks to its ready access to clean energy and we are eager to play our part at Atlantis to turn this potential into reality.”
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Gardner, Elliot. “Talking Tidal as MeyGen Kicks into Gear.” Power Technology | Energy News and Market Analysis, 27 June 2018, www.power-technology.com/features/talking-tidal-meygen-kicks-gear/.
Thomas, Allister. “Plans for 'World's First' Ocean-Powered Data Centre in Scotland - News for the Oil and Gas Sector.” Energy Voice, 9 Sept. 2019, www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/207276/plans-for-worlds-first-ocean-powered-data-centre-in-scotland/.