Saturday, 19 November 2011

France to complete world's largest tidal energy plant in 2012
16 Nov 2011

From Summer 2012, the French coast near Paimpol-Bréhat in Brittany will be home to the world's largest tidal energy plant. The project, which was originally conceived in 2004 and began construction in 2008, will provide power for up to 4,000 homes in the area, costing somewhere around 40 million euros (£34 million). The Irish company building the project, OpenHydro, has previously built facilities in the US, Canada, France, Scotland and the Channel Islands, but the scale of the French plant will dwarf them all.

The installation will consist of four two-megawatt turbines with a diameter of 22 metres, sitting anchored to the seabed 35 metres below the surface. Each weighs 850 tonnes and is connected to the French national grid. There are several significant advantages to tidal energy over the likes of solar, hydroelectric and wind. It has a very low environmental impact -- turbines are designed with a large open centre to allow marine life to pass through without getting caught in the blades. There are no oils or greases involved in the construction, and it produces very little mechanical noise. From the surface, they're invisible.

Then there's the benefit that tidal power is very predictable. Solar, hydroelectric and wind power output can be predicted to an extent but essentially depend on the weather, whereas we know to a very high degree of accuracy exactly how much energy will be generated by the tides at any given day and time. It's hoped that these advantages will encourage the roll-out of similar plants in other areas of strong tidal activity around the world.