Learning from Early Commercial Tidal Energy Projects in the Puget Sound, Washington and the Pentland Firth, Scotland
McMillin, Thomas Neal
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Using a textual analysis to interview data approach, this study explores two of the first multiple-device tidal energy projects to identify the key learning outcomes gained by stakeholders. The cases chosen are the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s Admiralty Inlet pilot project in Puget Sound, Washington, United States, and MeyGen Ltd.’s Phase 1A project in Pentland Firth, Scotland, United Kingdom. With a focus on stakeholder learning, the research draws upon scholarly literature on innovation systems and technical innovations systems. This qualitative study uses in-depth, semi-structured, elite interviews of key informants as the primary method of data collection. The study analyzed the interview data from twenty-three stakeholder interviews and utilized MaxQDA 12 software as a platform to analyze the interviews. Learning from tidal energy projects is examined from technical, economic, environmental, policy, and social perspectives. By so doing, this research seeks to understand the interdisciplinary lessons stakeholders learned about tidal energy. The lessons learned from these case studies suggest that existing risks and uncertainties can preclude the deployment needed for the technical validation. Technical learning focused on the challenge of developing robust instrumentation for monitoring in tidal flow conditions. Economic learning focused on the need for government funding for environmental research, the potential expense of legal challenges, and the socio-economic impact of the project for local businesses. The projects served as a catalyst for examining the environmental impacts of tidal energy development. Species behavior and interaction with devices remains an area of research to address. Policy learning related to risk tolerance of regulators and the potential legal barriers faced by tidal energy. Socially, initiating the projects allowed the developers to recognize the concerns of relevant stakeholders. Spatial conflicts, exclusion, and access were major concerns of opposing stakeholders. Learning about an interdisciplinary range of issues is key to the future success of the tidal energy sector.
- Marine affairs