Seagen turbine

Tidal current energy turbine given all-clear

A tidal energy turbine in Northern Ireland has been given the environmental all-clear by scientists.

SeaGen in Strangford Lough has had no major impact on the marine life with no changes in the population of seals or porpoises, according to an environmental report.

There have been "small scale" shifts in the behaviour and distribution of the creatures to avoid the turbines, the owners Marine Current Turbines Ltd said.

The seabed surrounding the machine's foundations has recovered since it was installed in 2008.

SeaGen can generate enough power for 1,500 homes.

"Marine Current Turbines has proved that the power of the seas can be harnessed in harmony with marine life," said Environment Minister Alex Attwood.

"The results of their work will give everyone greater confidence in realising the economic and environmental benefits that tidal and wave energy can offer to Northern Ireland, elsewhere in the UK and Ireland as well as other parts of the world."

SeaGen works like an underwater windmill, with the rotors driven by tidal currents rather than the wind.

Its operation has been limited to daylight hours but these restrictions have been lifted.

The Royal Haskoning report was produced by an environmental consultancy with an independent science group.

No major impact has been detected on the environment and there have been no changes in the abundance of seals or porpoises attributed to SeaGen, they are continuing to swim past the machine without hindrance.

"The only changes observed after three years of operation of SeaGen have been relatively small scale changes in the behaviour and distribution of seals and harbour porpoises, which suggests a minor degree of local avoidance of SeaGen," said the owners.

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