The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters in the North of Scotland will today confirm their place on the global marine energy map with the launch of the area as a Marine Energy Park.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker will welcome the launch of the marine park during a visit to Thurso in Caithness, where he is set to address key players from across the marine renewable energy industry.
The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park will incorporate the world-leading European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) which attracts developers from across the world and where testing of a wide range of wave and tidal energy devices is already under way.
The purpose of the park is to heighten the international profile of the region and its reputation as a world leader in marine energy. The park will build on collaborative partnerships in the region between government on the main land and the Orkney Islands, Highlands and Islands Enterprise(HIE), plus a cluster of local expertise and renewable resource in the area, to help speed up progress of marine power development.
Energy from waves or tides has the potential to generate 27GW of power in the UK alone by 2050, equivalent to the power generated from eight coal fired power stations. A move to marine power can also help cut emissions and tackle climate change.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: "It's great to see Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters confirm their place on the marine power map with the launch of the second of the Coalition Government's UK Marine Energy Parks.
"This area is already a vital part of the marine industry, thanks to its high tidal stream and wave resource. This stretch of water is also home to the European Marine Energy Centre, currently unrivalled anywhere else in the world. This park will help bring together local knowledge and expertise to spur on further development in this exciting industry.
"Marine power is a growing green clean source of power which has the potential to sustain thousands of jobs in a sector worth a possible £15bn to the economy by 2050.
"The UK is already a world leader in wave and tidal power and we need to really capitalise on this to ensure energy from marine reaches its full potential in our future energy mix."
Highlands and Islands Enterprise chairman Lorne Crerar said: "We are delighted that the region's role in the development of the marine energy sector is being recognised nationally and internationally.
"The designation as a marine energy park further promotes the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as a marine energy hub, and will accelerate investment and the industry's ambition for commercialisation of the technologies being tested here."
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: "The Marine Energy Park designation of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters region will further enhance Scotland's leading position in marine renewables. This award recognises the work that has been done in leading the development of wave and tidal energy in Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters region for many years, and proves that Scotland continues to be the jewel in the crown of all wave and tidal activity.
"Progress in Scottish wave and tidal renewables has been staggering, but the Scottish Government recognises that more financial support is needed to help the sector achieve its fullest potential. That is why we have committed over £30 million through WATES and WATERS schemes and investment at EMEC, and why we are still continuing to invest in the sector with the £18 million Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund created to accelerate the development and deployment of commercial arrays."
Convener of Orkney Islands Council, Councillor Steven Heddle said: "The launch of the Marine Energy Park formalises the leading role that the waters around Orkney have already played in the development of marine energy.
"The test sites of the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney have established it as a world-leading facility in the testing and certification of marine energy devices, allowing a competitive advantage for a new UK industry.
"The development of EMEC, supported by investment from the Orkney Islands Council, has led to the growth of a local supply chain and technical expertise geared towards marine renewables which is second to none.
"Further investment by the Council in piers and onshore facilities with huge growth potential at Lyness, Hatston and Stromness - already rewarded by significant activity and employment - shows our confidence in the successful commercialisation of marine renewables and offshore wind, and in our ability to service these activities.
"We welcome the launch of the Marine Energy Park, and look forward to working with our partners to drive development and economic prosperity for our communities."
Leader of the Highland Council, Councillor Drew Hendry said: "The Highland Council has been a key partner in the Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters wave and tidal programme since its earliest days, so we welcome this further recognition of the international significance of the marine resources in the north.
"We are particularly pleased to see the launch of the Marine Energy Park at the new state-of-the-art Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre in Thurso, where the next generation of marine engineers and technicians are already being developed. Together with our partners we continue to support the growth potential of marine energy for the economy of our area."
The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters is already a vital part of the UK's growing marine sector and is home to some of the best wave and tidal resource in the country as well as home grown marine expertise.
This stretch of water is also the site of the world's first commercial scale leasing round for marine energy. As announced by the Crown Estate (TCE) in 2010, there are 11 successful bidders for sites in Scotland's Pentland Firth and Orkney waters. Up to 1.6 GW (600 MW from wave and 1000MW from tidal stream) proposed by the developers involved in this leasing round, could, if developed to full capacity, meet the electricity needs of up to three quarters of a million homes.
Scrabster Harbour in Thurso is already expanding its facilities in light of the growing role of offshore energy in the area. Under its "three ports strategy", Orkney Islands Council is investing in new and upgraded pier and quayside facilities at Lyness, Hatston and Stromness - providing support facilities at key strategic locations for the marine energy industry.
The first UK marine energy park, in South West England, was launched in January this year by Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker.