From: Reuters
Published March 27, 2008 02:07 PM

Titanic's shipyard builds record tidal generator

By Andras Gergely

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Harland & Wolff, the Belfast shipyard that built the Titanic has diversified into renewable energy generation, assembling what Northern Irish authorities say is the world's biggest tidal electricity generation system.

The 1.2 megawatt SeaGen will also be the first to be connected to a local electricity grid and will generate electricity for 1,000 homes by using tides in Strangford Lough, east of Belfast, Energy Minister Nigel Dodds said.

An 80-metre long Norwegian crane barge will transport SeaGen from Harland & Wolff to Strangford Lough, where the energy converter designed by British firm Marine Current Turbines is expected to start commercial operation by early summer.

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"Northern Ireland has considerable natural resources, and to date wind farms have been our primary source of renewable energy. It is, however, important to optimize the use of all renewable technologies," Dodds said in a statement.

Waves and changing tides can produce more energy per acre than wind, a more commonly used renewable source. Water is always moving whereas gusts only keep wind turbines producing around 30 percent of their maximum capacity.

Earlier on Thursday, Ireland's state-owned electricity supplier ESB also announced in Dublin an investment of almost 11 billion euros ($17.4 billion) in renewable sources including tidal and wave technology to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.

Despite becoming a symbol of disaster worldwide, the memory of the ship Titanic is cherished by many in Northern Ireland as an example of its historic industrial importance.

The Titanic, the world's largest ship at the time, was built in 1912 and sank after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton in England to New York. Almost 1,500 people died because there were not enough lifeboats for all on board.

In Belfast there is even a new 135-acre "Titanic Quarter" under construction to offer thousands of apartments and space for offices, education and hotels in what its builders say is Europe's largest waterfront development.

(Reporting by Andras Gergely; editing by James Jukwey)

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