The world’s first commercial tidal energy turbine has completed a rigorous environmental monitoring process, which found that it had no major impact on marine life. The 1.2-megawatt (MW) SeaGen, designed and deployed by Bristol-based Marine Current Turbines (MCT), has been generating 6,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) annually in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough since it was deployed in 2008.
The SeaGen operates much like an “underwater windmill,” with twin rotors driven by the power of tidal currents. The turbine has the capacity to generate power for the equivalent of about 1,500 homes. The environmental assessment was recently completed by environmental consultancy Royal Haskoning and an independent Science Group, made up of representatives of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Queen’s University Belfast, the Sea Mammal Research Unit and others.
The Environmental Monitoring Programme (EMP), which began in 2005, before SeaGen was deployed, concluded that the SeaGen has had no major impacts; and despite avoiding the turbine, the seals and porpoises seem to be largely unconcerned with its presence. The EMP also concluded that the seabed life surrounding SeaGen’s foundations has recovered, and there is no evidence of significant change to the tidal speeds and flow directions or marine traffic within Strangford Narrows.