Energy Mapping Comes to Marine Power

Following in the footsteps of the wind industry, marine power is getting its own power map. The government of Scotland, home to the world’s only open sea testing facility for wave and tidal power, has launched a project to map out the potential of renewable energy to the north of the region, in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.

There weren’t too many details on the so-called Marine Spatial Plan from the government, but it will likely be similar to wind resource maps that are becoming common in the wind industry. Instead of gauging wind gusts, the marine power map will look at the tides and waves, and likely other environmental factors such as the seabed, water depth, and distance to shore.

Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, said the new project will serve as a planning tool for developers, regulators and current users of the marine environment. But it could take some time to get the marine map ready. The government said a draft planning framework will be available by April, with an initial Marine Spatial Plan expected to be developed over the next 12 months. The government didn’t say who would be handling the mapping duties, but it has held talks with at least one company with a stake in marine energy — Scottish Power — as well as a number of Scottish and UK government agencies.

Companies like Seattle startup 3Tier may want to get in on the Scottish mapping action. 3Tier showed off its solar maps at the International Solar Power conference last year, but it’s also working on mapping tools for the wind and hydro markets. Backed by cleantech investor Good Energies, 3Tier already has a service for monitoring the Columbia Water Basin in the Pacific Northwest, and said it has set up short-range forecast systems for hydropower and flood-control projects in the U.S. and Panama.