Offshore tidal power gathers momentum with plans for 100MW scheme off Irish coast

Plans for the construction of a 100 Megawatt tidal power scheme on the seabed off the coast of Northern Ireland have been unveiled this week. 

The Fair Head Tidal Energy project is one of the first tidal arrays in the world and is expected to start construction in 2018 its developers cork-based DP Energy has said.

The renewable energy project will generate the equivalent electricity to power an estimated 70,000 Northern Irish homes by 2020. The development area is centred approximately 2km to the east of Fair Head off the north Antrim coast and around 1km at its nearest point to land. It occupies an area of approximately 3km2.

“The technology is not unlike under water wind turbines, but rather than working by the wind they work on gravity, so the energy they generate is totally predictable and the public tend to prefer them because they are under water,” said a spokesperson for DP Energy.

The company is currently consulting with communities before it submits its planning application. It will be delivered in two phases.

The first, up to 10MW demonstration array is proposed to connect into the existing grid system at Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. This would be one of the first tidal arrays in the world. The second stage would complete the proposed 100MW array of tidal turbines that would be capable of powering some 70,000 homes.

The project is being developed by a SPV made up of DP Marine Energy and Bluepower. The project is adjacent to a second 100MW project being developed by Tidal Ventures Limited (TVL). The two projects together will export 200MW of renewable energy to the Northern Irish grid over the coming decade.

There is growing worldwide interest in the technology – and although it is still early days a number of schemes are in the pipeline including a scheme developed by MeyGen in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth in Scotland. Under the first phase of this project, four 1.5MW turbines will be installed on the seabed. MeyGen said eventually the scheme could have up to 269 turbines.

Northern Ireland will seek to achieve 40% of its electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020. Energy Minister Arlene Foster has said that offshore renewable energy offers NI a great opportunity to develop. “Offshore renewable energy provides security and diversity of supply, climate change mitigation and contributes to the Executive’s 2020 targets. It brings significant business supply chain opportunities for local companies,” she has said.

Tidal technology works in a similar way to wind turbines. The water flows over the hydrofoil sections (the ‘blades’) and creates ‘lift’ like an aeroplane wing. The blades then rotate driving an electrical generator. We are working with a number of leading tidal technology developers and are taking a “technology neutral” approach to consenting the site.