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Tidal-powered datacentre gets funding boost

Plans for the world's largest tidal energy project to be built off the coast of Scotland received a major boost yesterday after Europe's largest renewable firm, Norwegian energy company Statkraft, ploughed £4.6m into the company behind the proposals.

Statkraft has acquired a minority holding in tidal-energy specialist Atlantis Resources Corporation as part of a deal that means it will also become a partner in Atlantis' flagship project to build a 700MW off-grid datacentre powered entirely by tidal energy.

Bjørn Holsen, Statkraft's vice president for growth, said the deal would give the company a foothold in a sector that promises significant returns over the next decade.

"The relatively small scale of these facilities and their closeness to land mean that tidal power is well on its way to competing on cost with other new sources of renewable energy," he said. "Since the number of good sites is limited, it is crucial that we make our move now."

The proposed development will be located in the Pentland Firth in Scotland, dubbed the "Saudi Arabia of marine energy" by the Scottish government.

Atlantis, which also boasts Morgan Stanley as a major shareholder, has already submitted a planning application for the datacentre project.

The application is due to be decided by the Marine Estate later this year, and the consortium hopes to begin contruction shortly after consent is granted, with a proposed completion date of 2011.

The generators will connect directly to the onsite datacentre, removing the need for connection to the national grid - a common cause of delays to offshore renewables projects.

The investment is Statkraft's first major foray into tidal projects, though it is at the early stages of developing a site in Northern Ireland and has a holding in Harstad-based tidal technology company Hydra Tidal Technology.

Timothy Cornelius, chief executive of Atlantis, welcomed the new investment, arguing that it would allow the company "to continue leading the way in tidal-current energy generation".

Atlantis has successfully trialled deep water turbines and has developed one shallow-water turbine off Melbourne in Australia that has been operational and grid-connected for nine months.

An Atlantis spokesman told that the datacentre hardware would be developed and installed by a third party to allow the company to rent the server power out.

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