The tidal motion of water offers us an amazing source of energy – it’s immensely powerful, predictable, reliable and can be harvested with no emissions and very little impact on the environment.

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Following successful testing off the coast of Devon, Marine Currrent Turbines is set to begin construction of the world’s largest ever tidal turbine system off the coast of Northern Ireland – kind of like a wind farm that sits underwater. The 1.2MW generator will push enough power back into the commercial grid to supply 1000 homes, and will serve as a prototype commercial test of this clean, sustainable energy source.

Marine Current Turbines has confirmed that installation of its SeaGen commercial tidal energy system will commence during the week of August 20th in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough. At 1.2MW capacity, SeaGen will be the world’s largest ever tidal current device by a significant margin, and will generate clean and sustainable electricity for approximately 1000 homes. It is also a world first in being a prototype for commercial technology to be replicated on a large scale over the next few years.

The installation of SeaGen in Strangford Lough will be carried out by A2SEA A/A of Denmark, one of Europe’s leading offshore installation contractors. The SeaGen 1.2MW commercial demonstrator has been developed on the basis of the results obtained from SeaFlow, the world’s first full-size tidal developed on the basis of the turbine installed by Marine Current Turbines Ltd off Lynmouth Devon in 2003. It has taken the subsequent four years for Marine Current Turbines to design and build SeaGen and secure the necessary environmental and planning consents.

SeaGen is a commercial demonstration project with permission to operate in Strangford Lough for a period of up to 5 years. It is intended as the prototype for commercial applications of the technology that will follow.

Martin Wright, Managing Director of Marine Current Turbines said: “SeaGen’s installation is a very significant milestone for both Marine Current Turbines and the emerging marine energy sector. Following from our previous experience with SeaFlow, our 300kW experimental test system installed in 2003 off the north Devon coast, we are confident that SeaGen will show that tidal energy can be truly competitive with other forms of power generation. Decentralised tidal current energy is fundamentally predictable and sustainable. It is also environmentally benign.”

Commenting on the future prospects for tidal current energy, Martin Wright added: “We will build on the success of SeaGen to develop a commercial tidal farm, of up to 10MW in UK waters, within the next three years. With the right funding and regulatory framework, we believe we can realistically achieve up to 500MW of tidal capacity by 2015 based on this new SeaGen technology.”

Recognizing the special marine environment of Strangford Lough, MCT has undertaken a comprehensive environmental monitoring programme managed by Royal Haskoning, a leading environmental consultancy, working in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast and the St Andrews University Sea Mammals Research Unit. The programme is overseen by an independent body, chaired by David Erwin, a former Chief Executive of the Ulster Wildlife Trust.

The A2SEA jack-up barge, “JUMPING JACK”, is planning to mobilize from Belfast’s Harland & Wolf shipyard, where SeaGen is already complete and waiting, to Strangford Lough on August 20th. It is expected that the drilling of a single pile into the seabed and the installation of the twin-turbine device will take 14 days, with commissioning and power generation to the local grid shortly afterwards.

Martin Huss, Sales & Marketing Director of A2SEA said: “We are delighted to be working with MCT on this important and challenging project and hope it is the start of a long and rewarding relationship as tidal technology enters the market place in the UK.”

via Gizmag