RWE Innogy, the newly-launched renewables arm of RWE, is proposing the development of an “exciting and innovative” tidal farm scheme that could be operational as early as 2011.

Npower Renewables, the UK subsidiary of RWE Innogy, has signed a partnership agreement with Marine Current Turbines (MCT) to develop the project, which they believe will be the world’s first commercial-scale tidal scheme.

The 10.5 MW project would consist of seven 1.5 MW SeaGen turbines sited off the coast of Anglesey, North Wales. The two companies will initially conduct project assessment studies and are hoping to submit a consent application in 2009.

The project is expected to cost £20-30 million, according to MCT, which began project feasibility studies in 2006. It is currently preparing to install a 1.2 MW SeaGen commercial-scale prototype device in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.

Npower Renewables and MCT have formed a new company – SeaGen Wales – to take the project forward through consent and financing.

The seven SeaGen units will be installed in an area of 25 m deep open sea known as the Skerries, which has a high-energy environment with a 5.4 m tidal range and a 3.19 m/s mean spring current. The location also benefits from good port facilities at Holyhead, proximity to the National Grid and good transport links.

The announcement comes just a few days after the official launch of RWE Innogy, which has a portfolio of 1500 MW of generation capacity, mainly in wind and hydropower. The company’s objective is to vigorously grow RWE’s renewables business and is aiming to invest some EUR1 billion annually.

“With RWE Innogy, we aim to markedly increase the value of RWE because the planned investments will improve the CO2 position of the Group and significantly extend its business scope,” said Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt. “Overall, this will open up fresh growth opportunities for RWE.”

The SeaGen technology under development by MCT consists of twin axial flow rotors of 15-20 m in diameter, each driving a generator via a gearbox. The twin power units of each system are mounted on wing-like extensions either side of a tubular steel monopile some 3 m in diameter, which is set into a hole drilled into the seabed.

MCT installed SeaFlow, a 300 kW proof-of-concept tidal stream device in May 2003. The 1.2 MW prototype unit to be installed at Strangford Lough will be the world’s first grid-connected tidal stream device and is the prototype for all the company’s future projects.

“[RWE’s] involvement in SeaGen Wales … is also a significant step in commercialising the technology to not only deliver the country’s carbon reduction targets, but also opens up new opportunities for our SeaGen technology to be deployed in other parts of the world,” said Martin Wright, managing director of Marine Current Turbines.