The area is said to hold "significant" opportunities for tidal power
A survey of the potential of the Pentland Firth and the sea around the Orkney islands to generate energy from tidal devices is to be carried out.
Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is funding the work by Stromness-based company Aquatera.
HIE said the results would fill gaps in what was already known about the areas.
The Pentland Firth is the first UK marine site to be opened up for commercial-scale development.
The Crown Estate has invited applications from developers to run marine energy projects in the firth.
HIE confirmed last month it had carried out discussions with tidal power developer Atlantis Resources Corporation about a proposed computer data centre in Caithness supplied by renewable energy.
The results of the new survey will be made available to companies.
Head of HIE's energy team, Audrey MacIver, said the region presented a "significant opportunity".
She added: "Coupled with this natural resource, there is a wealth of scientific, environmental and engineering skills available locally together with state-of-the-art research facilities and future investment in infrastructure planned at a number of sites throughout the region.
"Gathering current data as part of this contract will help direct future work, attract new renewable energy projects and avoid duplication of effort by others."
In wartime, the sounds of Orkney were vital for sheltering and stationing Royal Navy vessels as well as anchorage for captured German warships.
Today, the islands host a centre for developing marine energy.