World's largest tidal turbine to be installed in Northern Ireland

Business Materials 1 April 2008 17:38 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The world's largest marine turbine, which generates electricity from the power of the tides, was due to be installed later Tuesday in the narrows at the entrance to Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough, news reports said.

Water from the 150-square-kilometre lough empties through a narrow 0.5km-by-8km channel between the villages of Portaferry and Strangford, creating a powerful tidal flow of 4 metres per second, which the turbine hopes to harness.

The 12-million-pound (24-million-dollar), 300-ton SeaGen turbine was expected to generate 1.2 megawatts of electricity initially, enough to power 1,000 homes by the summer, according to manufacturers Marine Current Turbines of Bristol in south-western Britain.

The turbine had been due to be installed last week and again on Monday, but bad weather prevented the installation, Ireland's national broadcaster RTE reported.

SeaGen will operate like an underwater windmill, and its makers claim it will be virtually silent, almost completely submerged, emission-free and enjoy an inexhaustible source of energy.

A team of maritime experts is due to observe the two-week installation to see its effect on the marine life of the protected lough, which is home to over 2,000 marine animals and plant species, according to the Strangford Lough Information Network.

The lough is also home to a wide range of migrating birds.

Ireland's Electricity Supply Board (ESB) announced only last week that it was investing 22 billion euros (34.4 billion dollars) by 2020 in upgrading the island's energy network, including 4 billion euros directly for renewable energy projects.

ESB subsidiary ESB Independent Energy is one of the major investors in the SeaGen project, providing funding of 4 million euros. In return, ESB will purchase all the electricity the turbine generates for the next five years.

Britain and Ireland aim to combine their national grids by 2020.