Case study: Tidal power in the UK – SeaGen

In April 2008, Bristol company Marine Current Turbines installed SeaGen, the world’s first commercial scale tidal stream energy generator in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.

Installing SeaGen

SeaGen is, in essence, an underwater windmill, bolted onto the Lough's bed. The 1,000 tonne tidal device is the largest of its kind in the world. The location was chosen because it combines extremely fast tidal currents with shelter from storms and provides easy access for the engineers and scientists monitoring the project.

The design is an evolution of an earlier prototype, the 300kW SeaFlow, which was installed off the coast of north Devon in 2003.

How does SeaGen work?

In Strangford Lough, the tides drive two 16m diameter rotors up to a maximum speed of 14 revolutions per minute, producing 1.2Mw of electricity. This is 400% more than any previous tidal generator and sufficient to power 1,000 homes.

The system is being monitored closely, not least of which for environmental impacts, though these are expected to be ‘benign’.

SeaGen in action

The following video demonstrates the SeaGen technology currently under development by Marine Current Turbines Ltd


Expanding SeaGen

Drawing on their experience of designing and developing SeaGen for Strangford Lough, Engineering Director and Institution Fellow Angela Robotham and her engineering team at Marine Current Turbines now have their sights on a demonstrator ‘farm’ of up to seven SeaGen units for the waters off the coast of Anglesey.

Beyond this, the company is looking to export the SeaGen technology and its in-house project development skills to other parts of the world, such as Canada, Chile and Indonesia where the tidal resource is strong and energetic.

"We are justifiably proud of our achievements at MCT," says Angela. "After installing the world’s first offshore tidal device with SeaFlow and then SeaGen, the first commercial scale and grid connected tidal system, our engineering team has unrivalled experience in the sector. Our work however is not without its challenges. We hope that our technology can make a meaningful contribution to the energy sector market and a part in the development of a sizeable marine energy engineering industry in this country.”


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