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Creating ‘water of life’ from the power of the sea


World-leading marine energy company Nova Innovation has announced a ground-breaking project to produce Scotch whisky distilled by tidal power in the Sound of Islay.

Nova Innovation will install a series of underwater turbines between the isles of Islay and Jura in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, creating clean, renewable power generated by the tide that will displace fossil fuels used on the islands, and power local whisky distilleries. The subsea turbines have no visual impact on the landscape, create no shipping or navigational hazard, and work in harmony with the marine environment.

The revolutionary 3MW ‘Oran na Mara’ project – Gaelic for ‘song of the sea’ – follows the success of Nova’s tidal power scheme at Bluemull Sound that has been powering homes, businesses and the grid in Shetland since 2016.

Simon Forrest, CEO 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) has awarded Nova Innovation an Option Agreement for the project which enables the company to start its detailed development.


Mark McKean, Development Manager at Crown Estate Scotland, said: “Nova Innovation are taking one of the crucial next steps in Scotland’s renewable energy journey. 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 is committed to drawing on local expertise as part of the project. This builds on their strong track record in working with local business and creating local supply chains at their existing array – the world’s first offshore tidal energy array – in Bluemull Sound, Shetland.


Angus Colquhoun, Engineering and Risk Manager at Distell, owners of Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay, said: “Bunnahabhain Distillery is delighted that Nova Innovation has been awarded seabed rights for a tidal energy project on the Sound of Islay.


“This will generate potential opportunities to improve the sustainability of our energy sources with the construction of a tidal energy system on our doorstep. 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: “This tidal energy project is really encouraging news for Islay and the potential of energy sourced 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.”


Islay and Jura are currently home to 10 of Scotland’s finest whisky distilleries. As Scotland transitions toward its commitment to net zero emissions by 2045, the whisky industry is adapting, with many distilleries looking at developing alternative zero carbon solutions.


Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, welcomed the news, adding: “It is good to see two success stories coming together. Whisky is a global brand and Islay is at the heart of that international industry. Our renewable sector is also attracting world attention and the waters around Islay have huge potential. 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 which will be widely recognised and applauded.”


Simon Forrest, CEO of Nova Innovation, added: “The Oran na Mara tidal array has the potential to pair one of Scotland’s largest and world-leading exports – whisky – with world-leading and internationally exportable tidal power technology.”