Neptune shines a light on tidal power

TIDAL power technology devised in Yorkshire could help to keep the lights burning as far away as the Loire valley in France.

Neptune Renewable Energy believes its environmentally friendly power generation system could be used in estuaries around the world.

The company, which is based in North Ferriby, East Yorkshire, has completed tests on its Proteus NP1000 tidal stream power generator.

The generator, which can produce electricity from tidal estuaries such as the Humber, will soon help Hull's flagship tourist attraction, The Deep, to cut its energy bills.

Tests were carried out in August, September and October last year in Hull's Albert Dock, after the generator arrived by barge from a north east shipyard.

When it is fully up and running, the machinery is expected to generate enough power in a year to light as many as 500 homes.

Glenn Aitken, the finance director of Neptune Renewable Energy, said: "We've been in existence for five years and during that time we have raised private equity money and designed and constructed a tidal stream generator.

"It's a tidal stream device, which means it will sit in the river. As the current flows through the device, it spins the turbine and it generates electricity. When the tide goes out it spins the same way and it continues generating electricity.

"It can be used in estuaries anywhere. It picks up the power from the current flow of the river.

"The plan is to install some more in the UK, and there are options around the world.

"The first demonstration device will be moved out and supply electricity to The Deep. It's going to be moored in the Humber, very close to The Deep, and it should be generating electricity in the spring. It will be about 1,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year.

"The first device will supply about half The Deep's electricity. The subsequent devices will probably flow back into the (National) Grid or for local usage."

The Proteus NP1000's low environmental footprint has been approved by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Mr Aitken said there were plans to put five devices in the river next year to supply more electricity.

He added: "There are private investors who believe in the device and think it will bring a good return in the future.

"We have been talking with people in Nantes in the Loire (valley in France) through a connection I had through our local village twinning association.

"The Loire would be a very suitable river."

However, Mr Aitken stressed that any tidal power generation project in the Loire would be "a few years in the future".

Mr Aitken said there were lots of places around the world that could potentially benefit from Neptune Renewable Energy's technology.

Weighing more than 150 tonnes, the Proteus NP1000 has steel buoyancy hulls, a vertically mounted turbine and computer controlled flow vanes. More than 80 per cent of the generator is hidden under water.

Nigel Petrie, the chairman of Neptune Renewable Energy, said it was the only company to have a full-scale, commercially viable, tidal stream power plant up and running in the Humber.

Supporters of tidal stream technology argue that it is more reliable than other sources of 'green' energy, such as wind.

Neptune Renewable Energy was founded in September 2005 to develop tidal stream power and wave power projects in Britain. It bought its preliminary device concept from the University of Hull three months later.

The company formed an alliance with Hull University to carry out research in the Humber Estuary, which is regarded as one of the best places in the country for tidal power, because of its depth and current.

In March 2009, the contract to build the demonstrator was let to the Wear Dock in Sunderland.

In July 2010, the Proteus demonstrator was transferred by sea from Sunderland to Hull and placed in the water for preliminary tests prior to three months of trials.

Mr Petrie said Neptune regarded tidal streams as a largely untapped resource where there is tremendous opportunity for growth.

Looking to the alternatives

THE Government wants more of our energy to come from environmentally-friendly sources, such as wind and tidal power. According to Neptune Renewable Energy, much of this 'green' energy so far has been derived from wind power.

However, Neptune argues that wind power is intermittent and incapable of meeting the demand. The company is developing two commercially focused technologies – the Neptune Proteus tidal stream power device and Neptune Triton, a shallow water wave power device. Neptune believes there is great potential for the UK to deliver a substantial, secure, clean and economic energy for the UK and global markets.