TIDAL energy leader Nova Innovation has won a major new contract to head up a consortium of nine leading industrial, academic and research groups in a European project.

The €20 million Enabling Future Arrays in Tidal (EnFAIT) project builds on Nova’s existing operational tidal power station in Bluemull Sound off the Shetland Islands, which was the world’s first grid-connected offshore group of tidal energy turbines.

The project, which begins this month and will run until June 2022, has been awarded as a competitive contract by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to develop marine energy sources and demonstrate technologies in European waters.

The project is a flagship initiative for the EU and marine energy, and aims to increase the commercial viability of tidal power.

It will extend the Bluemull Sound array to six turbines and demonstrate that reliability and availability can be achieved using best practice maintenance regimes.

The layout of the turbines will be adjusted to enable array interactions and optimisation to be studied for the first time at an operational tidal energy site.

Total project costs are expected to be €20.2 million, of which the EU Horizon 2020 Programme will contribute €14.9 million.

Speaking of the EnFAIT project, Simon Forrest, chief executive of Nova Innovation, said: “Winning the EnFAIT project in this very competitive call represents a huge vote of confidence in the ability of Nova Innovation and its partners to deliver.

“The project will make a major contribution to reducing the lifetime costs of tidal energy, and will boost investor confidence by providing hard-edged analytics of commercial and operational performance to inform investment decisions.

“Being able to provide evidence of our technology delivered and working in real grid-connected conditions was crucial to our winning the EnFAIT project.

“Our cost control and cost-reduction planning were equally decisive. We are looking forward to achieving further world-class results working with our consortium partners.”

The technology needed to generate energy using the ebb and flow of tides is rapidly developing, and there is growing worldwide interest in the sector.

Europe is at the forefront of tidal energy, and Nova plays a leading role in the industry from its Edinburgh headquarters.

As well building and operating tidal devices, Nova also develops sites turbines.

Founded in 2010, it has grown rapidly in the last few years, and now employs more than 30 staff.

It was awarded the Judges Award at the Scottish Green Energy Awards 2016 for its development in Shetland.

Rémi Gruet, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe, labelled the project an important pathfinder for the tidal energy industry in Europe, saying: “This announcement is a significant development, and further proof that the tidal energy industry is now in take-off mode.

“The EnFAIT project is an important pathfinder project and will help strengthen Europe’s global technology leadership in tidal energy.

“The knowledge, experience and expertise gained from projects like this will pave the way for a new industrial manufacturing sector with a supply chain based firmly in Europe”.