January 17, 2012
No Significant Environmental Impacts From SeaGen Found
Scientists have determined that the world's first tidal current energy turbine will not cause an environmental impact.
SeaGen was lowered into place and bolted to the seabed in 2008 in Strangford Lough, one of the world's fastest tidal currents.
However, questions were asked about what kind of environmental impact the device would have.
Strangford Lough is one of Europe's most protect areas because it provides a unique habitat for marine and bird life.
The location was chosen for SeaGen because it offered sheltered waters close to shore but still exposed the generating device to the pounding tides.
The tidal power from the Strangford Lough is so powerful that it actually damaged some of the blades in the early stages of the project.
Tidal power is an important part of any renewable energy plant as it is a guaranteed source of power and can be relied on every day.
SeaGen generated enough power for about 1,500 homes, or 1.2 megawatts.
The tidal current energy turbine's operation had been limited by its license conditions to daylight hours for fears that large marine mammals like seals would be hit by the propellers.
"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," the environmental monitoring report said.
The report said no effect in tidal flows was found, and the seabed around the device has recovered following any disturbance during SeaGen's installation.
"This is the most comprehensive study of the environmental impact of marine energy devices undertaken anywhere in the world," marine biologist and diver David Erwin who chaired the monitoring group told BBC.
"Given my long association with the lough, I was always confident that SeaGen could operate without any significant impact and I'm delighted that the results of five years painstaking work by some of the world's most-respected experts in their fields have shown this to be the case."
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