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Marine Current Turbines, ESBI to develop tidal energy hydropower project

ESB International announced it has entered an agreement with tidal energy company Marine Current Turbines to develop the initial phase of a 100-MW tidal energy hydropower project off the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland.

ESBI and MCT will work together to submit a proposal to the forthcoming Marine Leasing Round in Northern Ireland to secure an Agreement for Lease from The Crown Estate to commence formal consenting of the project. If successful, and subject to the achievement of consent, the initial phase of the project, which will use the MCT SeaGen device, could be in operation by 2018. The ESBI/MCT project will assist Northern Ireland in achieving its marine renewable energy targets as outlined in the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment's Strategic Action Plan, which calls for 300 MW of tidal energy by 2020.

SeaGen is the largest and most powerful tidal stream turbine in the world and the only one that is regularly generating electrcitiy for customers, having been accredited by OFGEM, the UK industry regulator, as an "official" power station, a press release states.

The 1.2-MW turbine has been operating in Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough since April 2008 and recently achieved another operational milestone by delivering its 2 millionth kWh of power to the grid. Thanks to Strangford being an exceptionally energetic location, SeaGen regularly produces as much electricity as an average off-shore wind turbine of double the rated power. This power is already being sold by ESB's retail electricity supply business, ESB Independent Energy, to customers in Northern Ireland.

ESBI is preparing an environmental scoping report on the project as an initial step in undertaking a full environmental impact assessment. In order to gain a thorough understanding of the tidal potential, ESBI has also undertaken tidal resource measurements off the Antrim coast over the summer months. This data is currently being analyzed, and it is planned to undertake further surveys in the coming months.

ESB Chief Executive Padraig McManus said ESB's strategy to 2020 involves focusing on sustainable and renewable energies.

"We look forward to working with MCT on this exciting new project," McManus said. "Our aim is to use our experience and technical strength to support the development of a viable ocean energy industry in Ireland, and this project is an important step in realizing that goal."

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