The marine turbine installed at the mouth of Strangford Lough last year is generating more power than expected, such is the force of the current

SeaGen is now running fully automatically, producing enough power to meet the average electricity needs for 1,500 UK homes, according to Marine Current Turbines, the company that developed the turbine.

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The company has now been granted permission to operate the turbine without any environmental scientists on board to watch for marine mammals. The turbine can now be operated by remote control as experience to date suggests seals and porpoises are not at any significant risk, Marine Current Turbines said.

Peter Fraenkel, technical director and co-founder of the company, told the Lisbon International Ocean Power Conference that SeaGen is running reliably and delivering more energy than originally expected in an extremely aggressive environment.

“It should be remembered it is being driven by a wall of water 27m deep, similar to the height of the Tower of London, that surges back and forth with every tide through the Strangford Narrows in Northern Ireland at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour,” he said.

“We are getting more energy than expected mainly because the resource is more energetic than originally predicted during earlier surveys.”

SeaGen has now delivered over 350MWh of power into the Northern Irish electricity grid, with the twin 16m diameter generators typically producing an average of 5MWh of electricity during the six hours of each ebb and each flood tide. This is enough energy to meet the average electricity needs of 1,500 UK homes, he said.

The turbine is officially accredited by OFGEM as a ‘UK power station’, the first tidal power system to secure this title. It is earning revenue from the sale of the power that is being generated and it also earns ROCs, the Renewable Obligation Certificates that are awarded for clean renewable generation.

Martin Wright, managing director of Marine Current Turbines, said it is a hugely significant milestone for the company. “The expectation is that this radical new technology can be developed within five to 10 years to make a significant contribution to our future energy needs,” said Mr Wright.

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