Underwater turbines to power island distilleries

An example of the underwater turbines.

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A marine energy company has announced a project to produce Scotch whisky distilled by tidal power in the Sound of Islay.

Nova Innovation, based in Edinburgh, has revealed plans to install a series of underwater turbines in the Sound of Islay between the isles of Islay and Jura.

The two islands are home to 10 of Scotland’s finest whisky distilleries.

Nova said the plan is to create ‘clean, renewable power generated by the tide’ to power the distilleries in the Inner Hebrides and displace fossil fuels used on the islands.

An example of a tidal turbine.

It said with Scotland seeking to meet net zero emissions by 2045, distilleries are looking for alternative zero carbon solutions.

The subsea turbines have no visual impact on the landscape, create no shipping or navigational hazard, and work in harmony with the marine environment, Nova said.

The revolutionary 3MW project is called ‘Oran na Mara’ – Gaelic for ‘song of the sea’.

It follows Nova’s tidal power scheme at Bluemull Sound, Shetland, which has been powering homes, businesses and the grid since 2016.

The Isle of Jura from the Isle of Islay

Simon Forrest, chief executive officer of Nova Innovation, said: ‘We are excited by the opportunity to combine Scotland’s rich whisky heritage with the immense power of the tide in the Sound of Islay.

‘Tidal energy can play a huge role in decarbonising the whisky industry and ensuring a sustainable future for Scotland’s island communities.’

Crown Estate Scotland (CES) awarded Nova Innovation an ‘Option Agreement’ for the project which enables the company to start its detailed development of the scheme.

Mark McKean, development manager at Crown Estate Scotland, said Nova was taking one of the crucial next steps in Scotland’s ‘renewable energy journey’.

He said: ‘This project is a great example of how a local energy system might work – and we’re hopeful to see more of these types of projects around Scottish waters, creating new developments that will grow Scotland’s blue economy and push us closer to reaching the country’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045.’

Nova said it is committed to drawing on local expertise during the project.


Angus Colquhoun, engineering and risk manager at Distell, owners of Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay, said it was delighted Nova had been awarded seabed rights for the project.

He said: ‘This has significant potential to support a raft of improvements that Bunnahabhain distillery is committed to making, to grow the sustainability of the iconic Scotch Malt Whisky brand and supporting the distillery to do its bit to help tackle the climate change crisis.’

AJ Cunningham, operations manager at Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay, said the project was really encouraging news for Islay and sourcing energy locally and renewably.

‘In order to decarbonise our activities, access to a clean and continuous supply of energy such as tidal power, could help support our carbon zero ambitions,’ he said.

Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, said it was good to see two success stories coming together.

‘The combination of the two shows the innovation and imagination for which Scotland is also famed and I am delighted to welcome this news. It will help decarbonise Islay, but it will also give an example of good practice.”

The sound of Islay