Current Picks Up for UK Ocean Energy

A completely new kind of energy system, which uses the almost limitless energy of flowing sea currents has been successfully, installed approximately three kilometers to the north east of Lynmouth in North Devon, England.

North Devon, England – June 30, 2003 [] According to Marine Current Turbines (MCT), the owner and developer of the technology, it is the most powerful device of its kind so far installed with a rated power of 300 kW – making it potentially capable of meeting the average electricity needs of about 200 typical UK households. It is also the world’s first marine renewable energy system of significant size to be installed in a genuine offshore location as previous marine renewable energy systems, whether for tidal or wave energy, have either been located on-shore or in sheltered, largely land-locked waters. The company says this project marks the stage at which the technology for exploiting marine energy has moved for the first time into the harsher energy-rich environment in which it needs to operate. The turbine is the culmination of the “Seaflow” project, a £3.5 (US$3.5) million project that is being conducted by an industrial consortium of UK and German companies and supported by the UK Department of Trade and Industry, the Joule Program of the European Commission, and the German Government. The project is aimed at testing the prototype turbine, and demonstrating technology, which will be further developed to a commercially viable stage by MCT over the course of the next few years. The Seaflow Project represents the first phase of a comprehensive R&D program intended to develop pioneering technology for exploiting the energy of marine tidal currents. The technology consists of rotors mounted on steel piles (tubular steel columns) set into a socket drilled in the seabed. The rotors are driven by the flow of water in much the same way that windmill rotors are driven by the wind, the main difference being that water is more than 800 times as dense as air, so quite slow velocities in water will generate significant amounts of power. This project, in effect, involves the development of an “Underwater Windmill” which can generate a maximum of 300 kW in a 2.7m/s current (5.5 knots). The energy generated, being derived from tides has the added significant advantage of being predictable. Maintenance of the device while it is submerged in fast currents would be exceptionally challenging and expensive, so a key patented feature of the technology is that the rotor and drive train (i.e. gearbox and generator) can be raised completely above the surface. Once raised, any maintenance or repairs can readily be carried out from the structure attended by a surface vessel. “The development of this technology is of great importance in helping us all to move towards the use of clean, non-polluting energy resources,” said Martin Wright, Managing Director of MCT. “It taps into a huge, predictable and clean energy resource, namely fast tidal stream currents, which are to be found at many locations around our coast. It has the potential to make a major contribution to future energy needs without causing pollution or any significant environmental harm. The project involves the design, manufacture, installation, testing and demonstration of the turbine, which will provide the essential information needed to design and build larger systems for commercial power generation, which will follow during the next few years. The prototype experimental unit was successfully installed 1km off Foreland Point (approximately 3km NE of Lynmouth, Devon, UK) on 26th May 2003 and is currently being commissioned prior to the start of an extensive test program which will be conducted over the next 12 months.
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