Tidal energy machine creates waves in Lowestoft

History was made when a cutting edge tidal energy generator took to the waters in Lowestoft today.

The aim was to determine whether Tidal Harvester 2 (TH2), a seven-metre long, four-tonne device which was tested on Lake Lothing, would generate the amount of energy predicted by computer modelling.

The simple yet sector-leading tidal harvesters - which work by allowing the tide to pass through the harvester, pushing blades to generate power - have been created by Lowestoft-based research and development firm 4NRG who hope to see them used in the North Sea to generate power for homes.

As previously reported, a modified version of the device that acts as a flood defence as well as energy generator could even be installed on the River Yare at Great Yarmouth.

While a �92,000 grant from East of England Development Agency has helped fund the prototype, the Broads Authority is supporting the research into a Tidal Harvester 5 with a �7,500 grant from its sustainable development fund (SDF).

At 2pm yesterday the TH2, built by Lowestoft engineering firm Small & Co, was lowered into the lake and towed by a boat to test how much energy a full scale device – about 30 metres wide, could generate.

'This is an incredibly exciting day for us following years of work,' said Mark Aspinall, director of the Tidal Harvester project.

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'We've learnt a lot about how the device can be built and the guys at Small & Co have worked well to highlight any issues.

'By towing it up the river we're simulating the tidal pulsing through the blades. We'll record the output, then compare that with independent computer modelling.

'When the results are in, that's when I have to go out and start asking for funding.'

It took Small & Co about 16 weeks to make the prototype.

For Paul Harper, director of Small & Co based at Lowestoft's East Dry Dock, it represents the future.

'It's projects like this we're hoping will put the town on the map again,' he said.

'One thing we've got here are the skills to build this.'