hero image

Nova Innovation

Published 13 June 2018

There is no denying the potential of tidal stream energy – both in terms of helping meet our Net Zero targets and the economic benefits that its adoption can bring to the UK.

Tidal stream technologies offer a predictable renewable energy source that can cover the power fluctuations from other renewable sources and could provide 11% of the UK’s electricity. Easily transportable and deployable turbines also offer a way of increasing access to renewable energy and tackling fuel poverty in remote and island communities across the world.

One of the UK tidal pioneers that is making this a reality is Edinburgh-based Nova Innovation.   Established in 2010, Nova is a world-leading tidal energy company that designs, builds and operates tidal turbines to generate electricity from the natural ebb and flow of the tide.

The Technology

Nova’s modular, scalable, rapid deployment tidal systems are ideal for maritime markets around the world. Its turbines can be installed as individual devices or as multiples in arrays to create multi-MW scale capacity.

Key Benefits:

  • Rapid deployment: Nova’s plug and play system enables its turbines to be containerised, transported and installed anywhere in the world using locally available infrastructure.
  • No visual impact: Its subsea turbines are invisible with no impact on the landscape, shipping or navigation.
  • High reliability: Its direct drive technology, robust design and blue-chip partners ensure high quality and low maintenance.
  • High performance: Years of operational experience have confirmed Nova’s systems are highly efficient, ensuring optimum return on investment even in lower tidal flows.
  • Environmentally friendly: Years of operating tidal turbines work in harmony with wildlife and the environment.

Journey with ORE Catapult

2017: Kick off of EnFAIT

The EnFAIT project, led by Nova Innovation and supported by ORE Catapult and wider consortium, demonstrates a grid-connected tidal energy array with the aim to provide a step change in the longevity and lifetime cost of energy of tidal power.

Over a six-year period, EnFAIT will prove that the reliability and availability of tidal energy arrays can be increased significantly and that we can reduce the cost of tidal energy by at least 40% – demonstrating that it is cost competitive with other forms of renewable energy.

The project is also bringing local economic benefits, with the array powering homes and businesses across Shetland since 2016. There are more than 60 UK companies in the project supply chain, clearly demonstrating the economic case for local tidal energy production.

2019: Kick off of ELEMENT

ELEMENT (Effective Lifetime Extension in the Marine Environment for Tidal Energy) is the second European Union’s Horizon 2020 project where ORE Catapult and Nova Innovation are working together. From 2019 to 2023, the €5 million project will show how artificial intelligence can slash the cost of tidal energy by an estimated 17%, bolstering the case for tidal energy as an important part of the world’s future energy mix.

The ELEMENT project will use behavioural modelling to create the world’s first intelligent tidal energy turbine, using its rotor and drive train as a sensor. This transformation eliminates the need for separate sensors to be attached to the turbine. This has historically presented a significant cost to tidal energy producers as they require replacing and repairing when affected by biofouling, corrosion and other common effects of the marine environment.

2020: Turbine 4 installed

In Autumn 2020, the EnFAIT project delivered a major milestone when it successfully installed the fourth turbine in the Shetland array. The new commercial direct-drive tidal turbine, “Eunice”, is already powering homes across Shetland and will slash the cost of tidal energy by a third – making tidal energy cost competitive with fossil fuels. Eunice was the first of three turbines set to double the size of the Shetland Tidal Array as part of the EnFAIT project, making tidal energy a commercial reality.

2023: Turbines 5 and 6 installed

Another milestone achieved under the EnFAIT project was the installation of the 5th and 6th turbines, making the array the largest in the world in terms of the  number of turbines. Turbines 5 and 6, Grace and Hali Hope, are connected via a pioneering subsea ‘hub’, sending power to shore by a single export cable. This innovation delivers significant savings on subsea cables, further reducing the cost of tidal power, essential as the industry scales-up.

Key Impacts

  • Personnel growth: 2010: 2 to 2023: 40-50
  • Turbines in the water: 2010: 0 to 2023: 8
  • Key product developments: World’s first tidal stream array; World’s first baseload tidal power station; Longest running tidal array in the world – powering homes, businesses and the Shetland grid since 2016.


Throughout Nova’s history, it has won sales, secured government contracts and attracted investment from both private and public stakeholders including:

  • £800k from the UK Government’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund to develop a low-cost, rapid turbine deployment and recovery solution that could unlock 100GW of tidal energy resources worldwide.
  • £2m project from the Scottish Government to advance tidal turbine manufacturing to a global level.
  • £6.4m from the Scottish National Investment Bank to scale the business. The investment will see Nova increase its presence across the UK and expand into new global markets.

International Growth

Nova’s growth is not limited to the seas around Shetland. Nova will install its first turbine in France in 2023, has a project in north Wales at Morlais and is well underway with its first project in Canada. The project, located in the Petit Passage at the gateway of the Bay of Fundy, will use Nova’s proven technology to produce clean, predictable tidal energy.  The first turbine will be deployed in 2023, with  a further 14 turbines to be deployed at the site, harnessing one of the planet’s most powerful tides.