Hunstanton firm’s bid to harness Norfolk’s tides

Electricity could soon be generated by the tides that flow around Norfolk's coastline.

A new company based in Hunstanton has built a prototype tidal generator which can harness tidal currents.

Former windsurfing champion Simon Sanderson and his business partner David Loughlin have won a �100,000 grant from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) to develop the technology.

Present tidal generators employ turbines in pipes. But Mr Sanderson and Mr Loughlin's device - called the Sea

-Spider - uses much larger volumes of water.

Precise details of how the machine works are a closely-guarded secret while patents are being registered to safeguard the invention.

Brancaster-based Mr Sanderson is a champion windsurfer who has designed hydrofoils and a catamaran which attempted the world speed sailing record.

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'It's all hydrodynamics,' he said. 'I've used a fair bit of my knowledge of speed sailing to develop this tidal generator.'

David Loughlin, managing director of Renewegen Ltd, the company formed to market the Sea-Spider, said: 'The idea is to capture the energy that's contained within a large moving body of water.'

'Our technology opens up the ossibility of utilising large areas of coastal and tidal waters for electricity generation that were previously felt to be unsuitable.'

Mr Sanderson and Mr Loughlin say their generators will be far cheaper to produce than wind turbines, less obtrusive on the coastal landscape and more efficient at generating electricity.

Tidal flows around our shoreline are guaranteed in advance - unlike the wind.

If the machines go into commercial production, the entrepreneurs believe hundreds of jobs could be created around Norfolk's coastline.

The machines would not pose any risk to aquatic wildlife.

'If you're a fish, a seal, a dolphin or a whale you'd have plenty of chance to see it and avoid it,' said Mr Loughlin.

Grants of up to �250,000 are available from EEDA for firms developing low carbon technology.

Paul May, executive director of innovation at EEDA, said: 'EEDA's grant funding can give businesses developing low carbon technologies the early-stage funding boost they need to get their projects off the ground.'

Applications must be in by the end of March.