Tidal power has marked what could be looked back on as the start of the sector’s acceleration on the path to industrialisation, with Scotland’s Orbital Marine Power launching the world’s highest-power single unit, the 2MW O2, into the North Sea.

Green is the new black. Subscribe to Accelerate

Get the market insight you need into the global oil & gas industry's energy transition – from the new newsletter from Upstream and Recharge. Sign up here

Following the launch operation, which saw the 680-tonne machine transferred from the Forth Ports quayside facility in Dundee into the River Tay using a submersible barge, the O2 is now in tow to the Orkney Islands where it will be wired in at the European Marine Energy Centre.

“This is a huge milestone for Orbital. The O2 is a remarkable example of British cleantech innovation and the build we have completed here is an inspiring display of what a UK supply chain can achieve if given the opportunity – even under the extraordinary pressures of a pandemic,” said Orbital CEO Andrew Scott.

Chris Smith, MD of Texo, which fabricated the cross-shaped unit, said: “The O2 programme has given us a significant opportunity to demonstrate our multi-disciplinary capabilities. We firmly believe that the transition to a net zero environment will deliver a range of opportunities to the UK’s engineering and fabrication sectors.”

Launch of the O2 turbine – which started construction in 2019 and used 80% UK supply chain content, from steel work contractors Scotland, anchor-makers from Wales and rotors blades delivered from England – marks the first vessel launch from Dundee since ship building left the port over forty years ago.

The O2 – a 73-metre-long ‘ocean-riding’ design featuring a pair of hinged 16-metre-diameter turbines that can be raised or lowered to simplify transport, installation and maintenance – will be able to single-handedly generate enough clean-power to supply 2,000 UK homes, offsetting 2,200 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Ben Miller, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “The launch of the O2 turbine deserves global attention... as coastal nations seek out the marine technologies that can deliver our net-zero future.”

Estimates of the size and speed of the potential wave and tidal energy roll-out around the world range widely. Ocean Energy Europe , the industry’s representative body in EU, is forecasting 100GW of installed capacity by 2050, meeting 10% of member states’ power demand.