December 10, 2013
Ocean currents would be harnessed to make electricity
Giant underwater ‘kite’ power plants are planned for the seas around Anglesey in the latest green development that could create skilled jobs on the island.
Swedish marine energy firm Minesto has developed the Deep Green technology to produce electricity from low velocity tidal and ocean currents.
The firm has developed the technology in successful sea trials in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.
Now, after work by Welsh university marine partnership Seacams on tidal currents and seabed conditions, it has targeted waters off the north west coast of Anglesey.
The firm wants to place 20, 12 metre wide, kites in the sea at depths of around 80m which are then tethered to bases on the seabed.
Negotiations are now taking place with the Crown Estate and the company hopes to have the project in the water by 2016.
Anders Jansson, chief executive of Minesto, said: “It is very exciting, there is huge potential off Anglesey and this is the first site we have identified for this technology which can unlock the energy that is created in deep waters.
“This area also has the grid connections needed and a skilled manufacturing base to supply the skills needed for this project. There will be economic benefits with skilled jobs created at sea and on land in maintenance work to support the site.
“There is huge potential for this to expand in the future. This would be a 10MW project, eventually we want to develop 1,000MW, Anglesey will be leading the way on the technology so there could be major benefits in the future.”
Deep Green resembles a sweeping underwater kite, comprised of a wing and a turbine, which is secured to the seabed with a tether and moves with high speed in an 8-shaped path in the tidal or ocean current.
It is the only known technology in the world that is capable of producing energy in a cost-efficient manner in slow currents.
Any concerns over the impact on sealife are being addressed with sonar technology being trialled to ensure mammals like seals, dolphins and porpoises are not injured by the ‘kites’.
Extensive work has been carried out by Seacams on the seabed conditions and tidal currents which have been studied by Minesto.
Seacams is a Welsh research project that offers marine businesses access to research facilities, expertise and knowledge from Welsh Universities, including Bangor.
Anders said: “Seacams is a terrific programme, it has helped make this possible.
“We are very grateful for the support and professional operations by Seacams, Anglesey Energy Island and other Welsh stakeholders.
“They are doing exactly the right things with a long term view of establishing Wales as a marine energy hotbed.”
The Welsh government has made development of renewable marine energy a priority. Recently, a report commissioned by the Welsh government showed marine energy could boost the Welsh economy by up to £840m annually.
The UK and Irish waters are especially promising for marine energy, due to the islands’ geographical location.
UK and Ireland can provide 25-50% of total European marine energy. The potential is more than doubled when slow currents, in which Deep Green operates, are included.
Wales has a particularly good tidal power potential in slow currents. In addition, Wales has a strong accessible grid which would remove a hurdle for a rapid expansion of projects.
Anders added: “Compared to other traditional and renewable energy sources, tidal and ocean current energy is considerably more predictable and reliable and causes no visual impact and positive environmental impact.”
This ties in with plan to make Anglesey an ‘Energy Island’ with nuclear, biomass, wind, and tidal power schemes developed.
Dr John Idris Jones, director of the Anglesey Energy Island programme, said: “We look at Minesto’s interest for Wales in a very positive light and would warmly welcome them to the region.”