Strangford Narrows, Northern Ireland: Thursday, December 18th 2008
SeaGen, the world’s first commercial scale tidal stream turbine, designed and developed by British tidal energy company, Marine Current Turbines, has for the first time generated at its maximum capacity of 1.2MW. This is the highest power so far produced by a tidal stream system anywhere in the world and exceeds the previous highest output of 300kW produced in 2004 by Marine Current Turbines’ earlier SeaFlow system, off the north Devon coast. The image above shows a screen grab from SeaGen's control system display with 1,201.8 kW being delivered into the NI grid.
SeaGen works in principle much like an “underwater windmill”, with the rotors driven by the power of the tidal currents rather than the wind. It was deployed in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough in May of this year and since then has undergone commissioning trials. As SeaGen has now reached full power it will move towards full-operating mode, for periods of up to 22 hours a day, with regular inspections and performance testing undertaken as part of the project’s development programme. The testing programme for SeaGen is being validated by the international marine classification society DNV (Det Norsk Veritas).
The power generated by SeaGen is being purchased by Irish energy company, ESB Independent, for its customers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. SeaGen has the capacity to generate power to meet the average electricity needs of around 1000 homes.
Martin Wright, Managing Director of Marine Current Turbines said: “Generating at full power is an important milestone for the company, and in particular our in-house engineering team. We are very pleased with SeaGen’s performance during commissioning. It demonstrates, for the first time, the commercial potential of tidal energy as a viable alternative source of renewable energy. SeaGen is now running exactly as we said it would, but testing will continue to be carried out, not only to check SeaGen’s performance over extended periods of operation but also to evaluate how components are standing up to the harsh conditions and to determine how the design might be improved. This work is vital for SeaGen’s long-term commercial deployment in projects elsewhere in the UK and overseas.”
“Marine Current Turbines has pioneered the development of tidal current turbines. As the first mover in tidal stream turbine development, we have a significant technical lead over all rival tidal technologies that are under development. There are no other tidal turbines of truly commercial scale; all the competitive systems so far tested at sea are quite small, most being less than 10% the rotor area of SeaGen.”
Drawing on its experience of Strangford Lough, Marine Current Turbines’ next project, announced in February 2008, is a joint initiative with npower renewables to take forward a 10.5MW project using seven SeaGen turbines off the coast of Anglesey, north Wales. It is hoped the tidal farm will be commissioned around 2011/2012.
Using its SeaGen technology, the company is also investigating the potential for tidal energy schemes in other parts of the UK and Ireland, and in North America.
Notes to Editors:
1. Marine Current Turbines Ltd (www.marineturbines.com) is based in Bristol, England. The company was established in 2000 and its principal corporate shareholders include BankInvest, ESB International, EDF Energy, Guernsey Electricity and Triodos Bank. In September 2008, MCT was ranked in The Guardian/Library House Top 10 of European clean-tech firms. In November 2008, the company appointed Cavendish Corporate Finance to secure new investment in the company in order to take forward its development plans.
2. SeaGen works by generating power from sea currents, using a pair of axial flow turbines driving generators through gearboxes using similar principles to wind generator technology. The main difference is that the high density of seawater compared to wind allows a much smaller system; SeaGen has twin 600kW turbines each of 16m diameter. The capture of kinetic energy from a water current, much like with wind energy or solar energy, depends on how many square meters of flow cross-section can be addressed by the system. With water current turbines it is rotor swept area that dictates energy capture capability, because it is the cross section of flow that is intercepted which matters. SeaGen has over 400 square meters of rotor area which is why it can develop its full rated power of 1.2MW in a flow of 2.4m/s (5 knots).
3. The SeaGen project has received £5.2m of funding from the UK Government. In addition, Northern Ireland Electricity has provided funding of £500,000 for the project as part of NIE Smart. NIE Smart (Sustainable Management of Assets and Renewable Technologies) encourages the development of renewable energy and energy efficient alternatives throughout Northern Ireland.
For further information:
Marine Current Turbines
Martin Wright, Managing Director
Tel: +44 (0)117 979 1888 / +44 (0)7785 340671