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"The Saudi Arabia of tidal energy"

The Times reports that "the world’s first deep-water device to generate electricity from the tides on a commercial scale is due to start operating within weeks".

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The 1,000-ton double turbine for tidal power generation has been lowered into place, and the operation to fix it to the seabed has begun.

When operational, the SeaGen Tidal System at Strangford Lough in Co Down, Northern Ireland, will produce enough electricity to supply 1,000 homes. Though this is "equivalent in aviation terms to the first biplanes", British energy experts hope to harness the "Saudi Arabia of tidal energy".

I grew up with a tidal water mill from the distant past. Situated on the edge of Southampton Water, the Eling Tide Mill has been milling flour for the last 900 years. In the 18th and 19th centuries, before they fell out of use, tidal mills were important to the British and American economies. They sawed lumber and ground spices and gunpowder.

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The Pentland Firth. "Three million tons of water race though a narrow area of sea every second."
Image: Sail Tales

The so-called "Saudi Arabia of tidal energy" is the Pentland Firth, between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands. Once the tidal technology is developed, it could supply up to 15 per cent of Britain’s total electricity needs.

In contrast to wind, tidal energy is predictable. Tidal technology does not impair the efficiency of radar (wind farms apparently do), and does not kill birds. The generators turn so slowly there is supposed to be no risk to fish. We hope this technology is less obtrusive than wind farms. We need energy. We need wilderness, too.

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