The tidal turbine will undergo its first tests in 2012, in the Bay of Fundy, Canada.
Philippe Cochet, Senior Vice President, Alstom Hydro and Wind, says: “There is a considerable potential market for tidal energy, estimated between 50 and 100 GW worldwide, of which France and the United Kingdom account for 10%.
“Tidal energy has some unique advantages. It is, for example, possible to predict the amount of energy that will be produced with complete accuracy, and tidal turbine generators are completely invisible once they are submerged. We are now entering an industrialisation and testing phase that will enable us to respond with a reliable solution as soon as the first calls for tenders appear.”
Alstom’s Ocean Energy activities will be located on the island of Nantes (Ile de Nantes) – a historical site of the French shipyard industry – under the direction of Philippe Gilson, Alstom Hydro’s Ocean Energy Manager.
The role of the team will be to design, manufacture and market a new generation of tidal turbine generators that can produce electricity from tidal currents.
The BELUGA 9 tidal turbine is intended for powerful currents – up to 4.5 m/s, or 9 knots, on the surface during spring tides.
It will be Alstom’s first tidal turbine generator. Once mounted, it will have a diameter of 13 m and a total height of 20 m, the equivalent of a six-storey building. It will be suited to sites at depths of 30 m or more, such as in the English Channel.
The Nantes division has also begun preliminary studies for the development of a second tidal turbine model, intended for sites at greater depths where the tide is less powerful – testing should begin in Brittany in 2013.
Gilson says: “Our global launching-ground for ocean energy had to be in an area where there was a concentration of skills in marine activities, and that could serve France and the United Kingdom as a priority. By establishing ourselves on Ile de Nantes, we will benefit from nearby testing facilities, such as the Ecole Centrale de Nantes’s towing tank and wave tank, as well as from an industrial environment that is particularly advanced in areas of mechanical and electrical engineering, and naval construction.”