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Published: 22 June 2011  
Related category(ies):
Innovation  |  Energy  |  Success stories


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Tidal energy from sails

Are Børgesen is a keen sailor who has invented a new tidal energy device.

Video in QuickTime format:  ar  de  en  es  fr  it  fa  pt  ru  tr  (15 MB)

In Haugesund, Norway, Innovation magazine meets Are and the Tidalsails team as they launch a prototype into a fjord. The unique design with its underwater sails is still being perfected, but it could offer a whole new way to efficiently and reliably capture the power of the tides and generate clean electricity.

A Norwegian inventor is developing a system that provides hydro-electric power on a non-industrial scale. Like many innovations, it came unsolicited from out of the blue. Are Borgesen explains:

“The original idea came about as I was out sailing, and we were heading against a very strong tidal current. And we were stuck for quite some time, and I figured ‘What if we turn the sailboat upside down? We for sure would have enough power in this spinnaker’.”

Are’s flash of inspiration resulted in a new device to harness the power of tidal currents. He describes how it works:

“Tidal sails is based on underwater sailing, where the sails are attached to wire ropes and the sails pull the ropes around wheels, and the wheels in turn turn a generator, and this produces electricity.”

A fjord near Haugesund in Norway provided a good spot to test Are’s device. The prototype can get jammed, but the design is evolving – the next version will have taller, narrower sails, which help make the process run more smoothly. Are understands there will be barriers but insists they can be overcome.

“There are challenges, but on the other hand we have lots of challenges on this smaller scale which may not be a problem on a larger scale,” he says.

A local engineering company is building the next demonstrator, which will be at least 100 metres long. It should be in the water and generating electricity by next summer.

Jan Otto Reimers is the CEO of Tidal Sails and gave us what he sees as the bigger picture:

“We can extract power from much larger areas than most of the conventional systems. The most important thing is to be successful, that is all that this is about, it’s to make power at a certain price per kilowatt hour.”

The tidal sail concept is being explored as part of an EU project.

Are believes the hidden power of tidal currents makes them one of the most promising sources of green energy.

“One of our sails of one square metre equals an 830 square metre wind turbine – that’s the difference in density and power.”

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Futuris, the European research programme - on Euronews. The video on this page was prepared in collaboration with Euronews for the Futuris programme.

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