A Tesla parked in front of a tidal-powered EV charging point

29 March 2021

On a Shetland island, cars are now powered by the tides

Drivers of electric vehicles on the Scottish island of Yell can 'fill up' directly from a tidal energy source, following the installation of an EV charge point that's powered by underwater turbines off the island's coast.

Edinburgh-based Nova Innovation began powering homes and businesses in Shetland in 2016, when it installed the world's first offshore tidal energy array. Quick primer on this form of clean energy: tidal turbines convert the motion of tides into electricity. Since tidal patterns are well understood, it's a more predictable source than wind or solar. Plus the turbines are out of sight and don't take up land. Downsides are that tide cycles don't always match energy demands, and potential effects on fish and other sea-dwelling creatures. (Initial research with motion-triggered underwater cameras indicated that marine wildlife wasn't colliding with turbine blades.)

Beyond the possibilities presented by marine energy, what caught our attention is the power of linking specific energy consumption to a specific, local source. Cars powered by ocean tides makes for a far more compelling story than an abstract notion like 'renewable energy'. Need more inspiration? Nova recently announced another Scottish project: distilleries producing whisky with power generated by the moon and the sea.

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