SCRABSTER, Scotland, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- The turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth, home to some of the world's fastest tides, this week were designated a marine energy park by the British government.
The designation, announced by Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker in Scrabster, Scotland, means the government will steer collaborations between university researchers and private companies working on marine energy technologies to the north of Scotland.
Dubbed The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park, it's the second area in Britain this year to receive the designation following the establishment of the first such park off the coast of Cornwall.
The idea of the marine parks is to create a "gold rush" effect, by establishing a critical mass of money and technical expertise in a single location. Orkney, for example, boasts the European Marine Energy Center, which conducts testing of an array of wave and tidal energy devices.
"This area is already a vital part of the marine industry, thanks to its high tidal stream and wave resource," Barker said. "This stretch of water is also home to the European Marine Energy Center, currently unrivaled anywhere else in the world.
"This park will help bring together local knowledge and expertise to spur on further development in this exciting industry," he said.
Baker declared marine power to be a "growing green clean source of power" with the potential to sustain thousands of jobs in a sector worth "a possible $23.5 billion" by 2050 and generate 27 gigawatts of power, equivalent to the capacity of eight coal-fired power plants.
The narrow Pentland Firth's notoriously turbulent channel between Orkney and Caithness feature tides that race as fast as 30 mph, ideal for capturing tidal power.
Britain says it hopes to raise the international profile of the region and its reputation as a world leader in marine energy by building on regional partnerships between various government agencies and developing a local cluster of marine power expertise.
"The designation as a marine energy park further promotes the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as a marine energy hub, and will accelerate investment and the industry's ambition for commercialization of the technologies being tested here," Highlands and Islands Enterprise Chairman Lorne Crerar said.
The European Marine Energy Center provides 14 berths in the firth in which various types of tidal and wave energy devices are being tested, including the Oyster from Aquamarine Power of Edinburgh, which converts near-shore waves to energy.
Also being tested in the Pentland Firth is the Pelamis P2 wave energy conversion device developed by ScottishPower Renewables and E.ON, whose tubed sections produce electricity when they are flexed by waves.
"The Highland Council has been a key partner in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters wave and tidal program since its earliest days, so we welcome this further recognition of the international significance of the marine resources in the north," said council leader Drew Hendry.
He pointed to the Engineering, Technology and Energy Center at the North Highland College in nearby Thurso, where training is offered to develop "next generation of marine engineers and technicians."