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Having boosted Seagen's energy output 2 GWh since January, the Siemens MCT project team is looking forward to additional deployments in the UK, as well as orders from other tidal power project developers. [...]

Clean Power

SeaGen Tidal Stream Turbine Proves It’s Ready for Commercialization

Having boosted Seagen’s energy output 2 GWh since January, the Siemens MCT project team is looking forward to additional deployments in the UK, as well as orders from other tidal power project developers. […]

Deployed in 2008 in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough as the world’s first commercial-scale, grid-connected marine tidal stream, Siemens MCT’s Seagen has been generating enough clean, renewable electricity to meet the needs of some 1,500 British households, according to a Belfast Telegraph report.

Owned by Siemens, SeaGen is the first marine tidal stream turbine to generate so much electrical energy — 5 gigawatt-hours (5 GWh) since this past January. Tidal stream currents are strong in Strangford Lough, a narrow inlet to and from the Irish Sea in County Down, an area known for fishing and picturesque towns and villages that’s popular with tourists, according to Belfast Telegraph reporter Clare Weir.

Tidal stream currents are regular and vary less than winds, which makes the energy output from tidal stream turbines less variable than wind turbines. That makes them better suited for grid connection. Potential energy generation from tidal stream systems has been estimated at 800 terawatt-hours (Twh) per year — between 3% and 4% of global power consumption — with demand for tidal power turbines forecast to grow at double-digit rates out to 2020, according to Siemens MCT.


Tidal Power Pioneer Marine Current Turbines

Though functioning basically as do wind turbines on land, there are numerous and varied adaptations to wind turbine concept, design, and construction that need to be taken into account when building a tidal stream turbine. For one thing, tidal stream turbine rotors and blades need to spin in two opposite directions in order to take advantage of the periodic ebb and flow of marine tidal streams. Doing so enables them to produce more energy than their land-based counterparts. On the other hand, environmental conditions in the marine environment are harsher and more difficult to assess, which adds to operation and maintenance costs.

SeaGen was developed by UK-based Marine Current Turbines (MCT), a pioneer in the field that set up shop in 1999. The origins of the technology used in SeaGen date back to the 1970s, however.

Having installed the world’s first offshore tidal turbine — the 300kW Seaflow system — off the Devon, England coast in 2003, SeaGen went on to install and commission the 1.2MW SeaGen tidal turbine in Strangford Narrows in 2008.

Germany’s Siemens took an initial equity stake in MCT in 2010. In 2012, it acquired all MCT’s equity shares and incorporated MCT into its Siemens Solar & Hydro Division.

The SeaGen team has boosted the tidal turbine’s output by 2 GWh since January. “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, Siemens MCT CEO Dr. Andrew Tyler stated. “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.“

Ongoing progress and its long-term performance “is an exciting development for this proven technology, whose potential for commercial deployment as part of the future energy mix is now recognized,” Siemens MCT stated in a press release.

Tidal Power Rising

Given SeaGen’s performance, Siemens MCT is looking forward to future deployments and orders from other tidal power project developers. Two Seagen projects — the 8MW Kyle Rhea project in Scotland and the 10MW Anglesey Skerries project in Wales — are in the advanced stages of development.

“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,” Dr. Andrew Tyler, Siemens MCT’s CEO commented.

Part of Siemens’ Environmental Portfolio, which generated revenues of some €30 billion in fiscal 2011. In its last fiscal year, Siemens eco products and solutions enabled customers to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 320 million tones, which equals the total annual CO2 emissions produced by Berlin, Delhi, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, New York, Singapore, and Tokyo, the company says.

Photo Credit: Siemens MCT

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I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.


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