Alstom’s tidal turbine achieves 100-MWh

Alstom said its 1-megawatt tidal turbine that’s undergoing testing at the European Marine Energy Centre has now sent 100 megawatt-hours of electricity onto the grid. The device first hit full operating power at the EMEC back in July.

The company called this a “major milestone” in the development of the tideal energy device, a horizontal-axis turbine that looks a lot like the big wind turbines that are churning out power around the world. With a rotor diameter of 18 meters, it is submerged on a tripod structure at a depth of 40 meters The three blades on the turbine are pitchable (that is, the blades can be turned to change the rotation speed), and the turbine can rotate to face the incoming tide.

The tidal turbine before it went in the water. (image via Alstom)

The total, 100 MWh, is a nice round number, and it’s not an insignificant amount of energy – the average Scottish household uses about 5 MWh a year. That Alstomhas reached 100 MWh has to be taken as a sign that its device is sturdy and has potential.

That said, Alstom would certainly be expecting a 1-MW turbine to do better than this once all the kinks are worked out and it’s running full-time. Even at a low 30 percent capacity factor, it would be expected to crank out about 250 MWh a month.

Alstom, which acquired this device with the purchase of U.K. turbine maker Tidal Generation from Rolls Royce, said “tests will continue at Orkney in different operational conditions into 2014, to demonstrate further autonomous running capabilities and efficiency of the turbine while generating electricity to the grid. These testing campaigns will be followed by other tests including deployment in pilot farms before the start of full commercial production.”

Tidal power – like wave – is a fascinating technology to keep an eye on these days because so many new ways of extracting energy from the sea are being floated (or submerged). A panoply of visions are being offered to find a way to make tidal power competitive, and many governments, especially Scotland, are encouraging the exploration.

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling