All eyes are on the Olympics in London this week, but one could argue that the truly exciting achievements can be found far north of London. Just a few days ago, the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker officially opened Scotland’s first designated zone for the development of marine power.

The announcement follows the government’s confirmation last month that wave and tidal projects will now receive five Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), up from two ROCs, for developments up to 30 MW.

The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park will incorporate the world-leading European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) where testing of a wide range of wave and tidal energy devices is already under way. Scotland has continually led the UK’s charge for independence from fossil fuels, making headlines in 2010 when First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond upped Scotland’s renewable energy goal from 50 percent to 100 percent by 2020. The country is on track to meeting that incredible target, as renewables now represent 35 percent of total electricity production in Scotland, beating the government’s current goal of 31 percent.

According to experts at the EMEC, energy from waves or tides has the potential to generate 27GW of power in the UK alone by 2050, equivalent to the power generated from eight coal fired power stations. A move to marine power can also help cut emissions, tackle climate change, and provide a much-needed economic boost.

“This park will help bring together local knowledge and expertise to spur on further development in this exciting industry,” said Minister Barker during the park’s ribbon cutting ceremonies. “Marine power is a growing green clean source of power which has the potential to sustain thousands of jobs in a sector worth a possible £15 billion ($23.4 billion) to the economy by 2050.”

The move has been celebrated by environmental advocates and clean energy technology companies alike, but some caution that marine power is only one element of the plan. Support for all types of renewable energy needs to remain strong in order to achieve independence from coal, oil and natural gas.

Main photo credit: EMEC