Wales gets first full-scale tidal array

Sensemaking / Wales gets first full-scale tidal array

EU funding worth £6.4 million unleashes a new stream of income and energy off the Pembrokeshire coast.

22 Nov 2011

EU funding worth £6.4 million unleashes a new stream of income and energy off the Pembrokeshire coast.

The Welsh First Minister has hailed tidal as a long-term business opportunity, following new EU funding to develop and install the country’s first full-scale array off the Pembrokeshire coast. The European Regional Development Fund grant, worth £6.4 million, means a new 1.2MW energy generator will be built. Designed by Welsh company Tidal Energy, DeltaStream is expected to generate enough power for 1,000 homes.

“There is huge potential for marine energy in Wales”, said the minister, Carwyn Jones, as he announced the funding. “Projects like DeltaStream will not only help meet our energy targets, but will provide further opportunities for local communities as well as businesses.” Studies estimate that the UK could draw from 25-30GW from its tidal currents – enough to supply around 12% of its present electricity demand. This is based on the performance of the SeaGen turbine, installed three years ago in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough.

The new DeltaStream design features three separate horizontal axis turbines, each measuring 15 metres in diameter, and mounted on a common triangular frame. The rotors respond to the flow of the tide, so that the turbines can generate electricity from both the ebb and the flood.

The array will be installed in the Ramsey Sound in 2012, generating electricity for the nearby town of St David’s. An environmental assessment is already underway, thanks to an additional £389,000 grant from the Carbon Trust. Operation Celtic Odyssey will study marine wildlife, develop 3D models of the seabed and turbulence, and measure background noise.

The Welsh scheme joins others along the western coast of the UK, from Scotland down to Cornwall, and across the Irish Sea in Ireland. Scotland is particularly keen to harness its tidal potential. A £40 million investment in the Sound of Islay is set to become the world’s biggest tidal turbine array, with the capacity to generate 30GWh a year [see 'Scotland to launch world's largest tidal farm'].

So will tidal win out over wave, as marine energy developers vie for investment? RWE nPower’s decision to pull out of its involvement with Siadar – WaveGen’s wave technology promised for Scotland – would suggest so. But the UK Government is reluctant to take sides, with ambitions for a marine energy sector that, according to the Carbon Trust, could be worth £76 billion and support 68,000 jobs by 2050. – Mark Williams

Photo: Delta Stream

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