ROV workboat tender ‘Advance’ along side at Gills Harbour

The main part of the Atlantis RL MeyGen sea-floor lease is situated less than 1.5 miles from community-owned Gills Harbour, with the Ness of Duncansby site, off John O’Groats, lying less than 4 miles east from Scotland’s most northerly mainland port.

It named its site MeyGen after the main historic farming and crofting estate centred on the “Royal” Castle of Mey — this domain once included the land/foreshore on which Gills Harbour is constructed. Mey village lies 2.5 miles west of the port.

The harbour body purchased its land-holding from then owners of the (residual) Mey Estate in 1987, although this had earlier been supposedly donated to its predecessor committee, as was announced at the 1905 opening ceremony of Gills Bay Pier.

This lengthy (150-yards/136 metres-long) stone-built structure was erected that year in 1905 specifically to diversify the employment base of Canisbay parish, under a pioneering Government “regional economic development” scheme.

It applied solely in crofting locations, all in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, where small-scale agriculture could not alone support the then population resident on the ground. In Canisbay and neighbouring Dunnet parishes, this was triple the numbers here today.

An adjunct to the Crofters (Scotland) Act of 1884, the Congested District Board (CDB) was established in 1896. This had more than North of Scotland importance in that the CDB became the forerunner of all state-sponsored regional development agencies in Great Britain.

In today’s terms, the cost of Gills Bay Pier was some £1.2 million. It was seen as the first phase of “a steamer terminus for the Orkney trade”.

One third of the investment came from taxpayer’s funds under the CDB, a similar amount was raised from the ratepayers of Caithness County, while the Gills Bay Pier Committee collected the remainder from local fund-raising efforts.

GHL’s present-day Company Articles closely reflect the spirit of the original ‘economic development’ intent.

AIMS OF GILLS HARBOUR Ltd: “The objects of the company shall be to own, manage, operate, maintain, improve and develop Gills Harbour in Canisbay parish, Caithness, on behalf of… (local) residents and the wider communities of Northern Scotland for the encouragement of sustainable employment through trade, commerce, industry, transport, energy and marine activities (including leisure) at, or, in the vicinity of, the harbour.”

‘C-Salvor’ at Gills Pier in mid winter

Gills Pier-master’s commuter car is already powered ‘by gravity’!

Locally, Gills Harbour Ltd (GHL) director Thomas Meikle is showing a way forward.

The Gills Pier-master’s new Peugot car is the first electric vehicle locally to use Pentland Firth tidal streams to power its owner’s thrice-daily three-mile commute from the family home in Mey to Gills, both small communities on Scotland’s north coast.

He fuels it up at Gills Harbour’s publicly-available high-speed “charging point”, that carries local distribution network electricity that, in turn, receives power input from Atlantis Resources’ MeyGen Inner Sound site.

It prompted the local area’s most internationally prominent retired scientist Dr Jack Dunnett to exclaim: “At last, a car running on gravity!”

He was referring the moon’s gravity “pull” on the Earth surface that results in completely-predictable, world-wide tidal movements; phenomena that are linked both laterally and vertically.

This is a local end of a much wider move to electric vehicles that comes as several west European governments, notably Norway and the Netherlands, intend to effectively ban sales of petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2025, either by way of legislation or by additional taxation.

All of this aims to mitigate the scientifically-accepted negative effects of climate change induced by human activities. This mainly involves the excess burning of hydro-carbons, including coal, oil and natural gas, often for generating electricity.

Because of its predictability and that fact that tides are not related to weather-patterns, electricity from tidal-stream is known as one of the world’s most promising “renewables” technologies.

As Mr Meikle is showing, tidal-stream energy could have a major future in land and sea transport, as well as providing electricity for powering and heating factories, warehouses and offices. This is in addition to providing warmth for households and electricity to run white-goods appliances, etc. in the home.

Within a decade, will articulated trucks bound for Scotland’s Central Belt or further with “vivier-tank’” cargoes of live shellfish on board heading to France and Spain, be similarly fuelling-up with tidal power from the electric filling station at Gills, the main trans-Pentland port for freight traffic from Orkney?

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