A prototype installed on the subsea at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) off the Orkney Islands in Scotland is the first tidal turbine to feed over 100 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electrical power into the national grid. The turbine was installed as part of the Deep-Gen III project, cofunded by the U.K. governmnet-backed Technology Strategy Board. The prototype was designed and built by Tidal Generation, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce.
The tidal system’s three-bladed turbine is attached by a tripod to the seabed and operates fully submerged at a depth of 40 meters. The turbine is capable of rotating to face incoming tides at the optimal angle for power generation. It is also semibuoyant, and can be easily towed to and from the point of operation, minimizing installation and maintenance costs.
In addition to perfecting its prototype, Rolls-Royce is also building a 1-MW tidal turbine demonstration array that will be deployed at the EMEC in mid-2012 as part of the Reliable Data Acquisition Platform for Tidal (ReDAPT) program funded by the Energy Technologies Institute. The company is also working with developers to advance other arrays for large-scale commercial deployment. Kawasaki and Aquamarine Power are also testing prototype tidal and wave generators at the Orkney facility.
Rolls-Royce estimates that tidal technology could generate up to 30 terawatt-hours of electricity for the U.K. (about 7.5 percent of its current demand), or enough to power 3 million homes. “The U.K. is already a world leader in this exciting renewable sector,” David Clarke, ETI chief executive, said in a statement. “However, the long-term viability of tidal technology depends on it becoming competitive with other renewable energy sources. Continued investment and new partners are urgently needed to maintain momentum and bring the technology to scale.”