Irish renewable company makes breakthrough in tidal energy

11 Sep 2008

Irish renewable energy company OpenHydro has become the first company in the world to deploy a tidal turbine directly onto the sea-bed, validating the competitive potential of tidal energy.

OpenHydro’s vision for ocean energy is the development of farms of tidal turbines mounted on the seabed where no part of the structure is visible from the surface and which is deep enough not to interfere with shipping.

The subsea base and turbine were lowered onto the seabed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland by the custom-built heavy lift barge, the ‘OpenHydro Installer’. A €5m investment was involved.

“Being able to deploy tidal turbines in this manner turns a difficult and lengthy project of many months into a quick and cost-efficient single-day operation,” said Brendan Gilmore, chairman of OpenHydro.

“It is another major step forward in our technology development programme towards commercial tidal farms that produce energy at a highly economic cost.”

James Ives, chief executive of OpenHydro added: “Our experience has shown us that the appropriate equipment for installing tidal turbines does not exist in the marine market and so in 2007 we took the decision to commission our own specialist tidal turbine deployment barge.

“This deployment approach lays the foundation for the cost-effective installation of commercial tidal arrays.”

Since 2006, OpenHydro has been testing its tidal turbine technology using a research structure installed at the EMEC facility in Orkney. In May 2008, OpenHydro became the first company in the UK and Ireland to complete the connection of a tidal turbine and commence electricity generation onto the UK national grid.

In terms of funding, OpenHydro has secured over €50m since 2005 for the commercial development of its turbines. It employs 30 people and is looking to recruit a further 10 technical and operational staff.

By Sorcha Corcoran

Pictured: sea deployment of OpenHydro’s tidal turbine