Speaking at a major conference on renewable energy on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Wilson announced £2M (US$3.1M) of funding for the new Marine Energy Test Centre in Orkney and for the advancement of the Stingray and Seaflow tidal stream projects. Stingray is a seafloor-based generator, consisting of a hydroplane which oscillates in the changing tidal currents. Its manufacturer, The Engineering Business, hopes to have a miniature 3MW capacity farm in place by the summer of 2004.

The government has also set aside £2M (US$3.1M) to promote research and development in existing and new tidal and wave power technologies, and £5M (US$7.8M) for a new capital grants scheme.

The Minister also announced investment from the commercial sector, outlining details of a new joint venture between Scottish & Southern Energy and Weir Group to develop new technology and prototype wave power schemes, worth up to £10M (US$15.6M).

‘This is the biggest investment we have seen so far in wind and tidal energy,’ said Wilson. ‘We see it as a real breakthrough and a ringing endorsement of our policy of backing renewables. To get companies of this standing to move into the sector will give a lead to others. This new money is to ensure in the short term that we can maintain the momentum which has been created.

‘The big drive to take wave power off the drawing board and into the water is really under way,’ he added.

Earlier this year, a smaller sum of £3.7M (US$5.8M) found its way to other wave power technologies. Wavegen, the designer and manufacturer of the 0.5MW Limpet 500, a device which makes use of the oscillating water column to generate power, received £2.1M ($3.3M). The company aims to set up a trio of floating devices next year using the same principles as the Limpet.

A further £1.6M (US$2.5M) went to Tidal Hydraulic Generators, a company designing a five-turbine tidal stream prototype to be used in areas of fast tidal flow.