Strangford tidal energy turbine gets environmental all clear

14 01 2013

Sea gen

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Donal Cunningham has welcomed the news that the world’s first tidal energy turbine, based at Strangford Lough, has been given the all clear by environmental scientists. This is good news and will give reassurance to the local community in North Antrim who may have had concerns surrounding the proposed Tidal Energy projects of Fair Head and Torr Head

The Strangford  turbine, SeaGen, has been in place since 2008, but questions surrounding the environmental impact of the structure had followed the project since its inception.

The possibility of any negative environmental impact caused by the Strangford Lough turbine is an even more sensitive issue than normal due to the fact that Strangford Lough is a special area of conservation, a Ramsar site and an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).

Despite previous environmental concerns, the Strangford Lough site was seen as ideal because it offered unusually strong tidal forces (so strong in fact that some turbine blades were damaged in the early stages of installation) and provided sheltered waters in which SeaGen’s turbines could be installed.

Many concerns about the SeaGen project focused around possible harm caused to large marine mammals such as seals, however, the recent environmental monitoring report gave reassuring news by stating that “There have been no changes in abundance of either seals or porpoises detected which can be attributed to SeaGen; seals and porpoises are continuing to swim past SeaGen, demonstrating a lack of any concern or hindrance.”

Unlike other forms of renewable energy, such as wind or solar power, tidal forces are highly predictable and can provide significant amounts of energy; SeaGen produces 1.2 MW, enough power for approximately 1500 homes. The technology offers a predicted output of hundred of megawatts if it were to be used extensively on the coasts of the UK.

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