Environment

Clean power from underwater kites

18/05/2016
Clean power from underwater kites

A company with its origins in Swedish aerospace and automobile company Saab is moving towards installation of an underwater power plant that it claims will produce energy cost effectively and with minimal environmental impact.

The company, Minesto, has developed what looks like an underwater kite that performs figure-of-eight manoeuvres in the sea, driven by ocean currents. The kite carries a small turbine, which is turned by the water flowing through it. The power generated by the turbine is transmitted via cable to the shore.

The innovative aspect of the Minesto turbine is that the kite's continuous underwater figure-of-eight movement significantly increases the velocity at which water moves through the turbine. Currently, most hydropower is based on static turbines requiring a high volume of fast-moving water to generate enough power. Because the Minesto device accelerates the speed of the water current, it can work in areas where the tide is slow-moving.

Low cost, low impact electricity generation

Minesto has spent the last few years developing and testing the underwater kite, known as Deep Green, at Strangford Lough, on the east coast of Northern Ireland. The extensive testing, the company says, shows that the technology generates electricity at a lower cost than competing technologies, works effectively with low-velocity currents, generates electricity predictably because it is based on tidal movements, has no visual impact because it is located below the ocean surface, and has no detectable negative impact on wildlife. The Minesto kite and turbine assemblage is also compact and modular, offering "the possibility of lean manufacturing," the company says.

Since 2014, Minesto has been working on its next move: construction of an underwater power plant that will initially have a capacity of 0.5 megawatts (MW), and which will ultimately be scaled up to 10MW, enough to fully meet the electricity needs of 8,000 homes. The plant is being installed at Holyhead Deep, off the island of Anglesey, North Wales, United Kingdom. The project has secured an investment of €13 million, or about 40% of its total cost, thanks the support received from the EU's regional funds.

The Holyhead Deep project should be ready for full installation of the underwater kites in 2017. The project has already created 30 jobs on Anglesey.. Minesto believes that the developments in Wales could be the basis for worldwide take-up of the technology.

Further information: http://www.minesto.com