Tidal Power in Northern Ireland
Strangford Lough (also called Strangford Loch) is one of Europe’s most protected areas because the unique habitat it provides to marine and bird life. It can be found on the Northeastern part of Ireland in the Irish Sea. The Lough is home to a number of species of marine and avian wildlife, including the common seal, basking sharks, and Brent Geese. It is home to three quarters of the world’s population of Pale Bellied Brent Geese, making it a critical habitat to protect.
The Lough also boasts a very narrow inlet which results in tidal flows of up to four meters per second. These rapid flows and strong currents make the Lough a promising place for tidal energy schemes. In 2007, after extensive review, permission to install a test station was granted.
The Lough makes use of SeaGen turbines, which are modeled after standard wind turbines, but turn slow enough to ensure that they pose no danger to passing wildlife. Each turbine is capable of producing 1.2 megawatts. The turbines operate in both directions, so they are capable of producing power for an average of 20 hours per day.
Environmental monitoring has shown no changes in seal of porpoise populations in the Lough and the animals seem unhindered by the turbine blades. Because of the sensitive nature of the Lough, then environmental studies conducted there are the most comprehensive of any tidal power installation. The findings are very encouraging and have led to approval for expansion to four turbines and a total of 8MW. The expansion will take place through 2014.