The marine energy turbine installed in the mouth of Strangford Lough shed two of its huge blades last week following a computer error.
At least one of the blades of the SeaGen system had to be recovered from the waters of Strangford Lough following the incident and both will now have to be replaced, setting back the test programme by weeks, according to Marine Current Turbines (MCT), the company which installed it.
The company is in the process of commissioning the turbine — testing it and connecting it to the National Grid — in a process that was expected to take around 12 weeks from the installation in April. However, MCT now estimates that it will take until early autumn before the SeaGen system — the first commercial-scale tidal turbine in the world — is operating at its full capacity of 1.2 megaWatts, enough to power 1,000 houses.
The turbine was first connected to the grid last Thursday when it produced a small amount of electricity, but disaster struck within hours.
“The whole idea has been to get SeaGen into the water and get it working and generating power on a contracted basis,” spokesman Paul Taylor said.
“During this commissioning work there was a computer programming fault which affected the operation of one of the turbines. Two turbine blades, on one end of SeaGen’s crossbeam, have unfortunately been damaged. The turbine blades have been removed or recovered and are now being inspected. Meanwhile, commissioning of the other end of the cross- beam is carrying on as originally planned.
“However, there is no question over the fundamental design of SeaGen and the technology which is being deployed.”
One of the blades was lifted by the MCT team from beneath SeaGen and was brought ashore at Black Boat Bay. During the commissioning process, the turbine has been running for short periods of time in daylight hours, he said.
“When we announced that SeaGen was generating power for the first time, we had massive worldwide interest so clearly it’s a little bit disappointing. It’s a hiccup but work goes on,” Mr Taylor said.