- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
Aug 7 2010 by Robin Turner, Western Mail
HUGE turbines could be submerged off the Welsh coast as part of the latest project to take advantage of the country’s tidal energy resources.
The scheme – effectively an underwater, tidal version of a wind farm – will be installed on the seabed in Ramsey Sound in Pembrokeshire.
The channel between the mainland and the island is known for its strong tidal currents and will initially host three 15m tidal turbines connected by a triangular frame that measures 36m on each side.
If the trial is successful, the unit, which should produce enough electricity to power 1,000 homes, will be extended by a factor of 10 in 2013.
The £1.4m scheme, developed by Cardiff firm Tidal Energy, has been awarded a £572,000 grant by the Assembly Government.
Environment Minister Jane Davidson said: “We think tidal energy offers a massive investment opportunity. It will go a long way to achieving the target of 10% of power coming from renewable sources by 2025.”
The DeltaStream turbines, developed in the Pembrokeshire village of Little Haven, use kinetic energy from tidal flows.
The system can be placed into the water using a barge.
Chris Williams, development director at Tidal Energy, said: “Compared to other energy technologies, tidal resources are the only predictable source of renewable energy.
“Tidal streams are created by the constantly changing gravitational pull of the moon and sun on the world’s oceans.
“This drawing of water creates currents that are guaranteed while, most importantly, tidal energy is also environmentally acceptable, since tidal power is freely available and only a device is required to capture it.
“No greenhouse gases or other waste is produced during the operation and it requires no fuel consumption.”
He added that numerous studies had been carried out to ensure the turbines have little impact on marine wildlife.
Mr Williams said: “As well as being environmentally friendly, DeltaStream has been designed to be easily installed and removed.
“It does not involve any piling or preparation of the seabed and we have slowed the turning speed of the rotors considerably.
“However, the prototype test, which will last for around 12 months, will tell us a lot more about any impact on wildlife and that will be incorporated in future designs.
“At the end of the study, Wales will be at the forefront of a renewable energy system that I believe will be successful around the world.”
Mid and West Wales AM Joyce Watson is a strong backer of the Tidal Energy project.
She said: “This small Welsh company is leading the world, and I have been excited by these developments for some time.
“I brought the team to the Assembly in Cardiff Bay last May to make their case, so I am delighted the minister has now announced funding to develop their innovative technology.
“In Pembrokeshire we know too well the difficulties of getting clean, affordable energy in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
“Unlike most other renewables, it will be invisible. This technology appears to offer simple, sustainable, low-cost and environmentally-sensitive energy, which would make a huge difference to us.”
Tidal Energy has to get Assembly Government and UK Government consents before starting the trial.
But Mr Williams hopes the red tape will be completed soon so a start can be made on testing the system.
As part of the trial, Tidal Energy will be carrying out site surveys, environmental assessments and design work at the demonstration site at Ramsey Sound, Pembrokeshire.
During the 12 months of the project, the prototype turbines will provide a sustainable source of electricity to the people of nearby St Davids.
DeltaStream was conceived in Little Haven by local marine engineer, Richard Ayre.
The technology will be assembled at a local quay and lowered to the seabed following connection to a sub-sea cable. Once installed it has a generating capacity of 1.2MW.
Tidal Energy is backed by Cardiff renewable energy company Eco2, Wales’ largest renewable development company, with projects in biomass, wind and landfill gas.
Chief executive of Eco2 David Williams said: “Tidal power provides a great opportunity to help Wales and the UK Government meet its renewable energy targets. However, investment and commitment is required now to make sure that Wales does not fall behind activity being carried out elsewhere. That is why attaining this funding is so crucial at this time.”