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Generating renewable energy the way forward - Poots

Friday, 2 October 2009

Environment Minister Edwin Poots today visited Marine Current Turbine Ltd’s SeaGen project in Strangford Lough.

SeaGen is the first commercial-scale tidal energy project in the world and is also the world’s only tidal energy device supplying electricity to the national grid. The turbine generates up to 1.2MW, enough electricity for about 1,000 households.

Speaking after the visit the Minister said: "It is important to optimise the use of all renewable technologies and the SeaGen project is evidence of how we in Northern Ireland have embraced such technology. The project will signify a significant step forward towards supporting government policy by reducing carbon emissions through renewable energy production."

In addition to the generation of electricity, another key objective of this project has been to examine the overall impact of the turbine on the natural environment. An independent science group overseeing the environmental monitoring of the turbine have stated that todate there has been no adverse impact to the special environmental status of Strangford Lough.

The Minister concluded: "I believe this project is a major step forward in renewables technology and is an excellent example of commercial development working hand in hand with our much valued and precious environment."

Notes to Editors:

1. SeaGen is an experimental marine current turbine capable of generating 1.2MW of electricity from the Narrows area of Strangford Lough, which is enough to supply 1,000 homes.

2. SeaGen is owned by Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT) and was installed in April 2008. Sea Generation Ltd is the project company which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marine Current Turbines Ltd. SeaGen has been licensed for a maximum installed duration of five years.

3. The structure is licensed by the Department of Environment’s Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA).

4. The FEPA licensing process provides planning controls for deposits in the sea from the high tide line out to the 12 nautical mile limit and covers all construction work within this zone.

5. The FEPA license for the temporary installation for the SeaGen system for a five year duration was first issued in December 2005, revised in February 2007 and again in February 2008.

6. Pre-installation environmental monitoring commenced in May 2004. A baseline report has been completed and was submitted to NIEA in August 2006. The environmental impact of SeaGen will be continuously monitored by independent science team throughout the licensed 5 year installation period.

7. The project is being managed by Royal Haskoning with Queens University Belfast and the Sea Mammal Research Unit providing the science input. David Erwin, a well known environmental scientist in Northern Ireland, chairs the working science group and stakeholder meetings.

8. Strangford Lough is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive. Harbour Seals and reefs were, inter alia, cited as SAC selection features. Many of the conditions to the licence reflect environmental protection considerations because the structure is located within the Strangford Lough SAC.

9. SeaGen was assembled in Northern Ireland at Harland and Wolff.

10. All media inquiries should be directed to the Department of the Environment Press Office on 028 9054 0003. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.