Irish tidal energy firm first to power UK grid

27 May 2008

Irish company OpenHydro has become the first tidal energy company to complete the connection of a tidal turbine to the UK national grid and commence electricity generation.

This is a first for both the UK and Ireland, making OpenHydro one of the first companies in the world to reach this stage of technical maturity.

OpenHydro’s 250kW Open-Centre Turbine, which is installed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) off Orkney, Scotland, commenced generation onto the grid yesterday in a test capacity.

These initial tests were successfully completed and the turbine operated as expected. The results from this phase of testing will now be analysed in detail and over the coming weeks and months OpenHydro will move into extended operation consistent with its test programme.

EMEC is the only independent and publicly financed facility in the world for testing tidal and wave technologies.

OpenHydro is an Irish renewable energy technology company whose business is the design and manufacture of marine turbines for generating renewable energy from tidal streams. The trials at EMEC have been supported by both Sustainable Energy Ireland and the Scottish Executive.

The Open-Centre Turbine’s simple, unique design works by converting the movement of water directly into electricity. OpenHydro’s commercial deployments will be mounted on the seabed where no part of the structure will be visible from the surface and will be deep enough not to interfere with shipping traffic.

“This is a hugely significant development not only for OpenHydro, but for the future of the tidal energy industry and security of energy supply,” said Brendan Gilmore, chairman, OpenHydro. “It is also a further major step in our programme to deploy an array of 1MW turbines in Alderney, the Channel Islands, in 2009.”

“We are delighted to have achieved this major milestone, which is the product of a tremendous effort put in by OpenHydro’s dedicated and talented team,” said James Ives, chief executive, OpenHydro. “We look forward to installing further turbines at EMEC and other significant tidal sites globally.”

The Irish company has won tenders to supply and install turbines to tidal sites in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada and Alderney, Channel Islands.

OpenHydro has raised over €50m in funding since 2005 for the commercial development of its turbines. The company employs 26 people.

By Niall Byrne