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Rolls-Royce to start U.K. tidal power turbine tests

British engine and power systems maker Rolls-Royce is to test a 1-MW tidal power turbine-generator next year in the United Kingdom, Ric Parker, Rolls director of research and technology, said.

"It's a huge opportunity for the U.K., we're ideally positioned to lead on this because we have the resources all around us," Parker said January 13, referring to Britain's location and long coastline.

Rolls-Royce is to embark this summer on sea trials of a 500-kW turbine to harness power from the tide, which it has developed with Tidal Generation Limited. It plans to test a 1-MW version in about 18 months.

The company plans to develop the bigger turbine with other partners, including Garrad Hassan, the University of Edinburgh, EDF Energy, E.ON, Plymouth Marine Laboratories, and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

"By 2020 there could be 300 MW (of tidal power deployed) around the U.K., or 100 to 200 devices," Parker estimated, declining to comment on the size of U.K. manufacturing opportunity.

Rolls-Royce, better known as a maker of engines for planes and ships, announced the tidal power initiative as part of its role in a 20 million pound (US$29.2 million) research initiative to develop clean energy technologies using public and private sector cash. The initiative, led by the public-private partnership Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), would support four projects in wind and tidal power, with Rolls-Royce leading one of those.

ETI could deploy up to 1.1 billion pounds (US$1.6 billion) over ten years, using funding from taxpayers and industrial partners including BP, E.ON, and Shell.

Rolls-Royce is spending about 5 percent of its research and development budget on clean energy technologies including tidal power and fuel cells, Parker said.

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