Marine Current Turbines Ltd has successfully completed the installation of its 1.2MW SeaGen tidal energy system in Strangford Narrows in Northern Ireland. There will now be a 12-week period of commissioning and testing before it starts regularly feeding power into the Northern Ireland grid.
The last time I wrote about the SeaGen project I got more than a couple of emails from friends and readers who were skeptical about the claims that the 16 meter-long turbine blades spinning on these machines could be environmentally benign (watch an animation of the turbines in action). The comments I received used such colorful language as "bassomatic" and "Irish Cuisinart" to describe the tidal power turbines.
I've yet to read over the reports myself, but it is my impression that researchers have no indications that the turbines would be harmful to marine life because the speed at which the rotors sweep (you may register to download the reports here).The final Environmental Impact Study was submitted to the regulatory authority, the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) in Northern Ireland in June 2005 and the license for the temporary installation for the SeaGen system for a five year duration was first issued in December 2005.
Researchers will be adopting an approach commonly referred to as 'adaptive management', whereby, the environmental impact of SeaGen will be continuously monitored by the team throughout the licensed 5 year installation period. The project is being managed by Royal Haskoning with Queens University Belfast and the Sea Mammal Research Unit.
It seems to me that the SeaGen could be a very expensive test run, if it turns out the turbines are indeed ecologically problematic.
[Photos are courtesy of Taylor Keough Communications, please contact me via email if you'd like larger/higher resolutions images and I will pass them along].