As we’re engulfed in our two leading renewable energy technologies Wind and Solar, expecting them embark to further milestones, break new records, become more efficient and become more economically viable. We could be forgiven for forgetting about emerging renewable energy technologies.
One such technology is Tidal Power that appears to be gaining some strength. The Siemens energy run SeaGen, which was the first commercial scale tidal energy system. The 1.2 MW system was first deployed in 2008 and have just received the milestone of having generated 5GWh (gigawatt-hours) since it’s installation. The system is operated in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.
Dr Andrew Tyler, chief executive officer of Siemens-owned Marine Current Turbines, which developed the SeaGen system said: “This is a very exciting time for tidal energy. SeaGen is a working demonstration of UK innovation, which we hope to export worldwide. As well as our demonstrable technical success in generating electricity at meaningful scale, the backing of Siemens has greatly facilitated our commercialization plans.”
So what does the future hold for this exciting industry? A double digit growth rate is expected for tidal leading up to 2020. The worldwide potential is estimated to be at 800 TW (terawatt-hours) which translates to 3-4 % of the worlds electricity usage.
The SeaGen system works a bit like an underwater windturbine, the blades are driven by consistent, fast-moving currents. The submerged rotors harness the power of the tidal streams to drive generators, which in turn produce electricity. Water is 832 times denser than air so consequently tidal turbine rotors can be much smaller than wind turbine rotors and generate equivalent amounts of electricity and can subsequently be deployed much closer together. Currently the Strangford Lough SeaGen system has the potential to power up 15.000 homes.
Of the 5GWh milestone Tyler adds: ‘’The fact that we have increased our generation by another two GWh in just over half a year is a clear indication that SeaGen has completed the demonstration phase and is now ready for commercialisation. While we continue to learn lessons from the installation in Strangford, we are now highly confident in our ability to deliver a reliable and maintainable system for commercial use’’.
Siemens see tidal turbines as an important part of their environmental portfolio and is taking forward the projects the 10MW tidal farm off Anglesey, north Wales (the Skerries) & 8MW tidal farm in Kyle Rhea (Scotland’s Isle of Skye).