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Page first featured January 7, 2009

Marine Current Turbines (MCT) Ltd has developed a new technology for exploiting tidal currents for large-scale power generation. A 1MW SeaGen tidal device is installed in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough.

The technology works much like submerged windmills, but driven by flowing water rather than air. They can be installed in the sea at places with high tidal current velocities, or in places with fast enough continuous ocean currents, to take out copious quantities of energy from these huge volumes of flowing water.

The cost of energy generation is expected to be in the same range as offshore wind, which is lowest-costing renewable energy method at present.

Contents

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Official Website


How it Works

The technology being deployed by MCT, known as “SeaGen” consists of twin axial flow rotors of 15m to 20m in diameter (the size depending on local site conditions), each driving a generator via a gearbox much like a hydro-electric turbine or a wind turbine. These turbines have a patented feature by which the rotor blades can be pitched through 180o in order to allow them to operate in bi-direction flows – that is on both the ebb and the flood tides. The twin power units of each system are mounted on wing-like extensions either side of a tubular steel monopile some 3m in diameter and the complete wing with its power units can be raised above sealevel to permit safe and reliable maintenance.
SeaGen works by generating power from sea currents, using a pair of axial flow turbines driving generators through gearboxes using similar principles to wind generator technology. The main difference is that the high density of seawater compared to wind allows a much smaller system; SeaGen has twin 600kW turbines each of 16m diameter. The capture of kinetic energy from a water current, much like with wind energy or solar energy, depends on how many square meters of flow cross-section can be addressed by the system. With water current turbines it is rotor swept area that dictates energy capture capability, because it is the cross section of flow that is intercepted which matters. SeaGen has over 400 square meters of rotor area which is why it can develop its full rated power of 1.2MW in a flow of 2.4m/s (5 knots).
SeaGen works in principle much like an “underwater windmill”, with the rotors driven by the power of the tidal currents rather than the wind. It was deployed in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough in May of this year and since then has undergone commissioning trials. As SeaGen has now reached full power it will move towards full-operating mode, for periods of up to 22 hours a day, with regular inspections and performance testing undertaken as part of the project’s development programme. The testing programme for SeaGen is being validated by the international marine classification society DNV (Det Norsk Veritas)." (Marine Current Turbines)

Videos


(3.48 Minutes)

  • Marine Current Turbines Renewable energy from tidal sources (YouTube; April 02, 2008)

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Costs

Competitive with Offshore Wind Power.

Advantages

"SeaGen, the world’s first commercial scale tidal stream turbine, designed and developed by British tidal energy company, Marine Current Turbines, has for the first time generated at its maximum capacity of 1.2MW. This is the highest power so far produced by a tidal stream system anywhere in the world and exceeds the previous highest output of 300kW produced in 2004 by Marine Current Turbines’ earlier SeaFlow system, off the north Devon coast. The image above shows a screen grab from SeaGen's control system display with 1,201.8 kW being delivered into the NI grid."
"Marine Current Turbines (MCT) is the world leader and first mover in marine current and tidal stream energy. The company has two primary goals: technology development and commercial project development/installation. MCT's world lead in the development of this new technology, has at last opened the door to the until-now unreachable power of the oceans."

Applications

  • MCT installed the world’s first offshore tidal turbine near Lynmouth off the coast of Devon in May 2003 and has completed installation of the world’s first commercial scale tidal turbine, the 1.2 MW SeaGen, in Strangford Narrows in Northern Ireland. This is the forerunner for a commercial product soon to be widely deployed in the vital quest for clean energy from the oceans.
  • SeaGen is the only existing example in the world of tidal turbine technology of a scale and performance capability capable of unlocking the potential of tidal stream and marine current energy on a commercial scale. This latest product is uniquely and demonstrably capable of meeting the technological challenge of operating in an offshore underwater environment whilst reliably and predictably generating low carbon energy. Many features of the design have been extensively patented internationally.
  • The power generated by SeaGen is being purchased by Irish energy company, ESB Independent, for its customers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. SeaGen has the capacity to generate power to meet the average electricity needs of around 1000 homes.

Independent Testing

“Marine Current Turbines has pioneered the development of tidal current turbines. As the first mover in tidal stream turbine development, we have a significant technical lead over all rival tidal technologies that are under development. There are no other tidal turbines of truly commercial scale; all the competitive systems so far tested at sea are quite small, most being less than 10% the rotor area of SeaGen.”
"Marine Current Turbines welcomed the appointment of Faber Maunsell, a major UK consultancy, to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of offshore wind and marine renewables in Northern Ireland waters. The appointment was announced by Northern Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment.

Patents

Abstract
A support structure for a flowing-water driveable turbine system, wherein a turbine, or a plurality of turbine assemblies (3), is/are mounted for operational co-operation with a flow of water on a deck or platform (1) of streamlined cross-section in such a manner that the turbine(s) is/are deployed laterally (i.e. normal to the direction of flow across the current and wherein the deck or platform (1) is aligned horizontally with the current so as to minimise its resistance to the water flow, deck or platform being is either being supported in the elevated position by at least two supporting legs or struts (2) upstanding from the bed of said flowing water or is buoyant and held down in the water column by tensioned cables, ropes or ties (5) anchored to the sea, river or estuary bed (SB) to be at said elevated location. Diagram
Abstract
A support system for at least one water drivable turbine (1) that when in operation is immersed in a column of flowing water, characterized in that the system includes a deck or raft (3) for supporting said at least one turbine when immersed, the deck or raft (3) having an inherent buoyancy which is such as to enable the deck or raft (3) to rise through the column of water upon reduction of the buoyancy, the arrangement being such that the associated turbine or turbines (1) can be raised above the surface of said column in order to access the turbine for maintenance purposes.

Profiles

Company: Marine Current Turbines Ltd

"Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT) is based in Bristol, England. The company was established in 2000 and its principal corporate shareholders include BankInvest, ESB International, EDF Energy, Guernsey Electricity and Triodos Bank. In September 2008, MCT was ranked in The Guardian/Library House Top 10 of European clean-tech firms. In November 2008, the company appointed Cavendish Corporate Finance to secure new investment in the company in order to take forward its development plans.
The SeaGen project has received £5.2m of funding from the UK Government. In addition, Northern Ireland Electricity has provided funding of £500,000 for the project as part of NIE Smart. NIE Smart (Sustainable Management of Assets and Renewable Technologies) encourages the development of renewable energy and energy efficient alternatives throughout Northern Ireland."
In recognition of their leadership position, MCT has received the backing of a number of major international utilities as well as institutional investors, including EDF Energy and Triodos Bank, and most recently ESBI, part of the Irish electricity utility. The company has also formed strategic partnerships with npower renewables amongst others to develop a series of sites across the UK and internationally.
Martin Wright, Managing Director of Marine Current Turbines said: “Generating at full power is an important milestone for the company, and in particular our in-house engineering team. We are very pleased with SeaGen’s performance during commissioning. It demonstrates, for the first time, the commercial potential of tidal energy as a viable alternative source of renewable energy. SeaGen is now running exactly as we said it would, but testing will continue to be carried out, not only to check SeaGen’s performance over extended periods of operation but also to evaluate how components are standing up to the harsh conditions and to determine how the design might be improved. This work is vital for SeaGen’s long-term commercial deployment in projects elsewhere in the UK and overseas.”

Inventor: Peter L. Fraenkel

Coverage

In the News

  • Tidal-Power System Hits Record Output - Tidal-power developments by British firms show this renewable power technology achieving impressive scale and continued design innovation. Bristol-based Marine Current Turbines (MCT) revealed last month that its SeaGen dual-turbine system achieved full power operation of 1.2 megawatts. (Technology Review; Jan. 6, 2009)
  • MCT Releases Plans for SeagGen Project - Marine Current Turbines plans to install one of the word's first commercial scale tidal energy systems in Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough. The company is targeting the installation of its 1.2 megawatt SeaGen tidal system for the end of March. (Renewable Energy Access; Feb. 11, 2008)
    • Tidal Energy System to Demo in August - Marine Current Turbines will begin in August installing its 1.2 MW SeaGen commercial tidal energy system, the world's largest, in Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough marine nature reserve, with Sea Generation Ltd as the project company. The company plans to develop a commercial tidal farm of up to 10 MW in UK waters within the next three years, and up to 500 MW by 2015. (Renewable Energy Access; Jun. 8, 2007)

Other Coverage

  • CW Answers - Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT) is a UK-based company which is developing tidal stream generators.

Comments

See Discussion page

Directories

Contact

Marine Current Turbines

Martin Wright, Managing Director
Tel: +44 (0)117 979 1888 / +44 (0)7785 340671

For further information about MCT Ltd, please contact

Sylvie Head

Office Manager & PA to the Managing Director
Marine Current Turbines Ltd
The Court
The Green
Stoke Gifford
Bristol
BS34 8PD
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)117 979 1888
Fax: +44 (0)117 906 6140
E-Mail: sylvie.head@marineturbines.com


Paul Taylor
Taylor Keogh Communications
T: +44 (0) 203 170 8465 / DDI: +44 (0)203 170 8466
M: +44 (0)7966 782611
E-Mail: paul@taylorkeogh.com
W: http://www.taylorkeogh.com

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