A tidal turbine near the mouth of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland has begun producing electricity at full capacity for the first time.

The SeaGen system is generating 1.2MW, the highest level of power produced by a tidal system anywhere in the world, and is claimed to be the first truly commercial ocean tidal system to achieve full production.

Martin Wright, managing director of SeaGen developers, Marine Current Turbines, said “There are no other tidal turbines of truly commercial scale; all the competitive systems so far tested at sea are quite small, most being less than 10% the rotor area of SeaGen.”

The system works like an “underwater windmill” but with twin 16 metre rotors driven by tidal currents rather than the wind.

Seagen Turbine

Seagen Turbine

Another British company, Lunar Energy, is constructing the world’s largest tidal power plant – a giant 300-turbine field in the Wando Hoenggan Water Way off the South Korean coast. The plant will provide 300MW of renewable energy by 2015. An installation of a 1MW pilot plant is expected by March 2009.