Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 14:08 UK

Major tidal power plan revealed

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Morgan Stanley headquarters
Financial services company Morgan Stanley has its headquarters in New York

Hundreds of jobs and heat for Prince Charles' organic business in Caithness have been identified as spin offs from a proposed green energy project.

Tidal power developer Atlantis Resources Corporation confirmed it was considering a site near Castle of Mey for a computer data centre.

The plan - still in the early stages - would see the centre powered by a tidal scheme in the Pentland Firth.

US financial giant Morgan Stanley is a major shareholder in Atlantis.

In an exclusive, Atlantis told BBC Scotland there were potential benefits from the project in terms of employment and Charles-inspired organic and local produce business, Mey Selections.

We are very optimistic about this
Roy Kirk

New York-based Morgan Stanley manages more than 400bn in financial assets, while Atlantis describes itself as one of the world's key developers of tidal energy.

Morgan Stanley said the proposals were in the "very early stages".

Atlantis has held talks with public development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

If it goes ahead, the computer data centre would provide services for a number of companies and would be powered by tidal energy rather than rely on fossil fuel.

Dr James Mitchell, head of business development for Atlantis in London, said the project could lessen the blow from workforce reductions at the former Dounreay nuclear power complex.

He said: "We estimate that our plans in the region would ultimately create at least 700 new jobs over the next decade in association with the installation, operation and maintenance of the tidal current turbines.

"These skilled jobs would come at a crucial time, with employment set to steadily decline at the nearby Dounreay nuclear facility."

He added: "We are also keen to use the excess heat from the data centre to warm greenhouses.

"The site under consideration is close to Prince Charles' Castle of Mey, so perhaps we can use renewable energy from the Pentland Firth to help grow local organic food under the Mey Selections range."

'Healthy response'

Roy Kirk, of HIE, confirmed the agency has had discussions on the plans.

He said: "We have been working with a number of companies over the last 12 months and are delighted to be working with companies like Morgan Stanley and Atlantis.

"We are very optimistic about this. It is the merging of the skills base and the great natural location and the increasing demand around the world for renewable resources."

Last month, the Crown Estate made the Pentland Firth the first UK marine site to be opened up for commercial scale development.

Developers have been invited to put forward projects for the firth.

The Crown Estate said: "The call for expressions of interest will be issued in mid-November and we anticipate a healthy response.

"Those who register an interest will be sent applications packs in January."

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