An innovative underwater “kite” which generates electricity from tidal energy is to be tested for the first time in the UK's seas following a £350,000 grant.
Tidal energy device developer Minesto UK Ltd plans to trial the small-scale prototype off the Northern Irish coast after it was selected by the Carbon Trust for the grant funded by Invest Northern Ireland.
If the trial is successful Minesto plans to deploy enough devices around the UK’s coastline to generate up to 530GWh a year by 2020 - enough to power the annual electricity needs for all households in a city the size of Newcastle.
The Deep Green device works like a kite tethered to the seabed while "flying" through the sea current carrying a turbine.
As it flies in a figure of eight it accelerates the speed of the water entering the turbine by up to 10 times allowing more power to be generated.
This means the technology is able to operate in slower currents than any other tidal energy device, bringing more areas around the UK's coastline into use for renewable energy.
The research and development grant will help Minesto gain site permits for installations, test the structure’s survivability in a real sea environment and develop a model for the cost of the energy produced by the device.
Anders Jansson, managing director of Minesto, said: "The support from the Carbon Trust has really helped Minesto to accelerate its technical development and proves that the UK has large ambitions for its marine renewable programme."
Benj Sykes, director of innovations at the Carbon Trust, said: "The UK boosts some of the best tidal resources in the world and we are focused on bringing down the cost of extracting that energy.
"Minesto's Deep Green is a very exciting technology as it could provide a step change reduction in the cost of tidal energy and open up swathes of the UK's coast to generating electricity."
Sykes said tidal energy had the potential to produce enough electricity to meet five per cent of the UK's consumption.
Tracy Meharg, managing director of Invest NI, said the investment strengthened the aim to position Northern Ireland as a leading renewable energy hub.