Fraenkel, technical director and co-founder of Marine Current Turbines, the UK, Bristol company that designed and developed SeaGen (the world’s only "commercial scale" tidal turbine), told delegates that SeaGen is running at full power and fully automatically "exactly as planned".
"SeaGen is running reliably and delivering more energy than originally expected in an extremely aggressive environment," Fraenkel said. "It should be remembered [the turbine] 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. We are getting more energy than expected mainly because the resource is more energetic than originally predicted during earlier surveys.”
SeaGen has already delivered over 350 MWh into the Northern Irish electricity grid, according to MCT. The twin generators typically produce an average of 5MWh of electricity during the 6¼ hours of each ebb and each flood tide. This is enough energy to meet the average electricity needs for 1500 UK homes.
The SeaGen turbine, with its twin 16m diameter rotors, is officially accredited to OFGEM as a “UK power station”, the first tidal power system to secure this. 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.
Although SeaGen has been operational for most of 2009, it was not until September that consent was given to operate it without having to have environmental scientists (marine mammal observers) on board and onshore. This was an initial requirement under the licensing arrangements to ensure that SeaGen did not adversely affect the marine mammals that are a protected feature of the local waters and restricted SeaGen’s uninterrupted running, explained a company statement. However, "extensive experience gained so far suggests the seals and porpoises are not at any significant risk and as a result SeaGen is now permitted to operate unattended and by remote control, as was originally intended", the statement concluded.