Orkney’s Marine Renewables Under The Archaeological Spotlight

As part of the Orkney Energy Landscapes Project, a team of volunteers led by Dan Lee and Richard Irvine with expert input from Andrew Hollinrake, visited the EMEC experimental site at Billia Croo HY 22448 10233, on Friday 23rd of July.

Started in 2003 and completed a year later, The Billia Croo site at Stromness has been, and is, a testing ground for marine renewables and is of international importance.

The test site has hosted several marine energy devices, including Pelamis, Oyster I and II, and Wello. An experimental marine-located Microsoft data server was also operational at the site. The onshore facility was built inside a former stone quarry, and contains a substation with various grid converters.

The team was supported by the experts to survey the site where the remains of various structures could still be seen.

Some like those of Aquamarine have left a lot of visible evidence but others like those of Seatricity and Microsoft have barely left an imprint.

In November 2014, Pelamis went into administration and ceased trading. P2-001 was acquired by Wave Energy Scotland and was decommissioned in April 2016 and sold to Orkney Island Council. The P2-002 device was sold to European Marine Energy Centre and was decommissioned in 2016.

How are major wave and tidal energy projects progressing around the world?

Marine Renewables in Scotland has been beset by funding issues including investors pulling out of projects, resulting in companies ceasing to exist. This is not the case in other countries – for instance both Portugal and Canada have seen the great power that can be harnessed from the tides and the waves.

This important archaeological project involving The Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands, ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology), St Andrew’s University and members of the community is funded by Heritage Lottery Funding.

The previous visits were at Burgar Hill and Costa Hill, charting the advancement of wind power. The next part of this project will be the re-creation of a walk which took place during Orkney’s Uranium Protests. The walk will be held on 21st of August and will retrace the footsteps of those who first campaigned against the mining of Uranium in Orkney.

Here is a short video of the team at work on site at EMEC

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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