There are high hopes that West Harris will find itself at the centre of wave energy production following a move by the Crown Estate to pass on rights to part of the seabed.
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has been awarded the rights and will work alongside the West Harris Trust and the Comhairle in a bid to attract wave energy developers to the area.
The EMEC already operates two wave test sites and two tidal test sites in Orkney, and will now begin consultations on how best to develop the new marine energy development zone in Harris, along side a further two new sites in Islay and Orkney.
The move by the Crown Estate will mean the site in Harris, which is several miles from the island of Tarensay, will be managed by the EMEC, the Trust and the council who can then sub-let areas of the seabed to developers to progress projects.
The agreement allows the consortia to explore and assess the potential of the zones for marine energy production for a three year period and to seek potential developers for the sites. If these studies prove successful a 45 year management agreement can be set up - allowing long term commercial leases of the seabed.
Roddy MacLennan, Director of the West Harris Trust’s renewables subsidiary, is hopeful the move will provide employment for the communities of West Harris as well as add to the Trust’s renewable energy portfolio. Currently the Trust already have a wind energy project and are working towards a hydro scheme.
“This is a welcome opportunity for the community to be engaged in marine-based renewables development,” said Mr MacLennan.
“We look forward to seeing the consortium establish a local office and surveying the area in the short-term, which will hopefully then lead to long-term development of the zone and major benefits for the local community and economy.”
The news was also welcomed by the Comhairle Leader Cllr Angus Campbell. He said: “The production of electricity from wave energy has been an aspiration of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for many years now.
“While intransigence over the provision of an essential grid upgrade to the Outer Hebrides has meant that wave energy on the commercial scale will not be possible in the short term, we recognise the need for a demonstration facility to accelerate wave energy technology and, particularly device survivability in the aggressive maritime climate West of Hebrides.”
He continued: “The Comhairle is therefore delighted to partner EMEC and West Harris Trust in this ambitious project and is particularly pleased at the level of community involvement achieved through the participation of West Harris Trust.
“As joint Demonstration Zone Managers, we will create the conditions which enable the testing and developing of wave energy converters so that, when our Grid upgrade finally arrives, we are well placed to contribute to Scottish, UK and European carbon reduction targets.”