A team of engineers has developed a turbine which they claim will produce the world’s first domestically affordable electricity from tidal energy within a year.
Glasgow-based Nautricity, a Strathclyde University spin-out company, is to begin pre-commercial testing of the CoRMaT device.
They say the patented rotor system could overcome the problems which have made the production of tidal energy uneconomical.
The CoRMaT is a small, free-floating capsule, tethered to a surface float, which uses a new contra-rotating rotor system to harness tidal energy.
It can be used in water up to 500m deep and, because its closely spaced rotors move in opposite directions, it remains steady in the face of strong tidal flows.
Nautricity is one of several companies that have been selected by the Crown Estate to bid for the first round of licences to generate wave and tidal energy in the Pentland Firth.
A proof of concept version of CoRMaT has already generated electricity and later this year a pre-commercialisation device will undergo further rigorous testing at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney.
Developers said they are confident it can become the first device on the market to effectively deliver commercially competitive electricity to the national grid.
Nautricity co-founder David Pratt said: “We anticipate that within the next year we will be capable of producing electricity that is competitive with offshore wind generation.
“First-generation tidal devices are nothing more than wind turbines in the sea. They require very heavy foundations and engineering to take place on the seabed which means they have a very high fixed cost.
“Our device is small, easier to handle and engineer and significantly simpler to deploy. We have lots of small units in the water compared with a few very big units.”
Nautricity launched in 2009 and has so far invested more than £2M in CoRMaT with support from private equity investors.
It plans to begin rigorous testing in autumn but could switch testing to Canada, the Mediterranean or Asia depending on the level of support it receives from government and private sources.