Voith Hydro and RWE Innogy install marine tidal current turbine off the Scottish coast

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The installation of the foundation will start before the end of this year.

  • First commercial-size demonstration facility
  • Two years of trial operation for one-megawatt turbine
  • British government provides GBP 1.7 million
  • Voith Hydro and RWE Innogy will jointly install a one-megawatt marine tidal current turbine off the Scottish coast through the joint venture company Voith Hydro Ocean Current Technologies. It is due to start its two-year trial operation in the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in the Orkney Island waters in 2011. The installation of the foundation will start before the end of this year. Cooperation partner BAUER Renewables Ltd., a subsidiary of the civil and mechanical engineering company Bauer AG, will manufacture and install the foundation. Following its completion, the turbine is designed to feed approx. 1,800 megawatt-hours of electricity (1) into the grid per year. The aim is to gain important knowledge from this demonstration turbine throughout its operational lifetime.

    The total investment is approx. GBP 11.8 million. The project is supported by the British Government which is providing GBP 1.7 million through the Carbon Trust’s Marine Renewables Proving Fund. Overall, the investment costs will decrease significantly as this technology is migrated to series production.

    Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt, Chief Executive Officer of RWE Innogy: “We are testing a marine tidal current prototype for the first time on an industrial scale off the Scottish coast. The experience gathered here in terms of technology and economic efficiency will provide us with important information for our future growth in this sector. Following successful tests, we intend to install further marine tidal current power plants with an installed capacity of up to 100 megawatt mainly off the British coasts by 2020.” Unlike in Germany, the very even and strong tidal ranges off the coasts of the United Kingdom are ideal for marine tidal current power plants across large areas.

    Dr. Roland Münch, Chief Executive Officer of Voith Hydro Holding, added: “Voith Hydro is convinced of the potential of tidal currents as an energy source. RWE Innogy shares our enthusiasm, and will be our partner in developing this technology. This will enable us to take account of the interests of our future customers from the early design stage on. The industry needs strong partnerships like this to make a success of this very challenging renewable energy source.”

    Marine energy production is a very young technology for which no reliable expertise has been gathered so far. Compared with other technologies in the area of renewables, however, it comes with a major advantage: tidal flows result from the movement of the earth, moon and sun, and can therefore be predicted very accurately, years in advance. So the power volumes fed into the grid can be forecast with greater reliability than in other renewable energies.

    Robust technology
    The marine tidal current turbines developed by Voith Hydro Ocean Current Technologies are installed completely under water and firmly anchored to the bottom of the sea. The turbine technology is specifically tailored to the rough conditions out in the open sea and therefore rationally dispenses with any technical complexity. They are differentiated, not by using demanding technological solutions, but by avoiding them. The turbines are directly driven, eliminating the gears which are still so prone to damage in marine technology. There is no need to adjust the rotor blade angle. The turbines use a permanent magnet generator. To avoid costly sealing solutions, which require intensive maintenance, the flow of sea water is deliberately channelled through the turbine, where it serves as a lubricant for the bearings.

    Overall, the systems are characterised by a robust design and environmental friendliness. They are operated completely without the use of oils, e.g. as lubricants. A first turbine of this type with a capacity of 110 kilowatts is currently being successfully installed by Voith Hydro Ocean Current Technologies on the South Korean coast. Joint research and development of the prototype with 1 megawatt of capacity is the next step towards integrating the marine energy resource into the energy supply of the future.

    Voith Hydro Ocean Current Technologies
    RWE Innogy is convinced of the large potential of marine energy and founded the joint venture company Voith Hydro Ocean Current Technologies with Voith Hydro in February 2009. The development, production and marketing of tidal current technology is being advanced together. As part of its venture capital activities, RWE Innogy owns 20 percent of the joint venture company by way of an equity interest. Voith Hydro is the majority shareholder holding 80 percent.

    Through the operation and construction of its wind farms at sea, RWE Innogy has excellent experience in the offshore sector and has also been committed for a long time now to generating electricity from marine energy. Even beyond the joint venture, therefore, RWE Innogy will support the installation and operation of the first prototypes on a commercial scale out of its research and development units.

    European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC)
    The European Marine Energy Centre, EMEC for short, is an internationally renowned research centre for marine energy. In the waters of the Scottish Orkney archipelago, it supports the development of facilities for marine energy production and helps to develop them from the prototype stage to a commercially viable product.

    Carbon Trust
    Carbon Trust is a non-profit-making organisation created by the British government. It supports the development of technologies for CO2 reduction. Its key function is the subsidisation of CO2 reduction in British industry.

    (1) Commercially operated plants will produce a significantly higher annual output, because the system has to be shut down more often during the test phase in order to make technical adjustments and modifications.

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