CC BY-SA, Wave energy power generator, Peter Church
Islands are ideal test beds for renewable energy and in 1991 Islay was chosen for the location of an innovative wave energy testing project at Claddach farm near Portnahaven, a site ideally exposed to the full force of Atlantic waves.
The LIMPET (Land Installed Marine Power Energy Transmitter) was developed by Queen‘s University Belfast with the construction of a 75 kW prototype. Following on, a 500 kW unit was built in 2000 together with Scottish company Wavegen. The LIMPET 500 was the first time in the world that a commercial scale wave energy device was connected to the grid!
The way it worked was by wave action causing water level to oscillate in an inclined concrete tube with is opening below water level, the LIMPET chamber. This variation in water level alternately compressing and decompressing trapped air above, caused air to flow backwards and forwards through the pair of contra-rotating turbines designed by Wavegen, thus producing electricity.
Sadly this world’s first experimentation was decommissioned in 2011, due to a number of factors, amongst which were Islay’s weak grid connection and change of ownership for Wavegen. But from completion till decommissioning, the prototype produced a wealth of valuable information and has proved an ideal test bed for developing such technology leading to a fully operational 16-turbine plant built in Spain’s Bay of Biscay.
Islay is still working on its renewable energy potential with the Islay Energy Trust now looking at tidal energy in particular.
More information on visiting the area can be found here.