This paper gives the rationale and background to an already advanced research and development (R&D) programme aimed at developing technology for the commercial exploitation of kinetic energy from marine currents. This is followed by a brief overview of the characteristics of the tidal stream resource, the technical principles by which it may be exploited, and the key technical challenges that need to be overcome.
The paper includes a description of the pioneering ‘Seaflow’ Project involving the installation and testing, since May 2003, of a prototype 300 kW tidal turbine 3 km off Lynmouth. The next stage of Marine Current Turbines Ltd's R&D programme is then described: this involves the development of a 1 MW twin axial-flow rotor system, called ‘Seagen’ which is planned for installation early in 2007. The installation and testing of ‘Seagen’ will mark a landmark stage in the R&D programme because it will form the basis for the commercial technology to follow. A brief outline of future plans beyond ‘Seagen’ is also given.