First commercial tidal turbine operating at full power

Marine Current Turbines' SeaGen system generates 1.2 MW of power, the most ever by a tidal turbine system.

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SeaGen, the world’s first commercial-scale tidal stream turbine, designed to harness the power of strong tidal currents with a two-rotor turbine structure fitted with composite blades, is now fully operational in Strangford Lough, off the coast of Northern Ireland. Funded in part by grants from the U.K. government’s Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) and designed and developed by tidal energy company Marine Current Turbines (Bristol, U.K.), the turbine already has generated electric power at its maximum capacity of 1.2 MW. That reportedly is the most power produced, so far, by any existing tidal stream power system, exceeding the previous high output of 300 kW produced in 2004 by Marine Current Turbines’ earlier SeaFlow system off the north Devon coast in the U.K.

The central tower structure was barged to the Strangford location on April 2, 2008, and installed on pin pilings that were drilled into the seabed, about 400m/1,300 ft from the shoreline. The twin, two-bladed rotors, each about 16m/52 ft in diameter, were manufactured by Aviation Enterprises Ltd. (Lambourn, West Berkshire, U.K.) using trademarked VTM Variable Temperature Molding 266 prepregs supplied by Advanced Composites Group Ltd. (Heanor, Derbyshire, U.K.).

Since installation was completed, SeaGen has undergone commissioning trials and now will move toward 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 program. The testing program for SeaGen is being validated by the international marine classification society DNV (Det Norsk Veritas).

Electricity generated by SeaGen is purchased by Irish energy company ESB Independent for its customers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. SeaGen has the capacity to generate enough power to meet the average electricity needs of about 1,000 households.

“We are very pleased with SeaGen’s performance during commissioning,” comments Martin Wright, managing director of Marine Current Turbines. “It demonstrates, for the first time, the commercial potential of tidal energy as a viable alternative source of renewable energy. This work is vital for SeaGen’s long-term commercial deployment in projects elsewhere in the U.K. and overseas.”