alstom’s Ocean Energy Business was created in 2009 when Alstom signed a technology-licensing contract with Canadian company Clean Current. The business will now be located on the island of Nantes (Ile de Nantes) under the direction of Philippe Gilson, alstom-hydro’s Ocean Energy Manager. The role of his team will be to design, manufacture and market a new generation of tidal turbine generators that can produce electricity from tidal currents.

BELUGA 9, intended for very powerful currents (up to 4.5m/sec, or 9 knots, on the surface during spring tides) will be Alstom’s first tidal turbine generator. Once mounted, it will have a diameter of 13m and a total height of 20m, the equivalent of a six-storey building. It will be suited to sites at depths of 30m or more, such as in the English Channel.

In addition, the Nantes division has just begun preliminary studies for the development of a second model, intended for sites at greater depths where the tide is less powerful; testing should begin in Brittany in 2013.

“Our global launching-ground for ocean energy had to be in an area where there was a concentration of skills in marine activities, and that could serve France and the United Kingdom as a priority,” said Gilson. “By establishing ourselves on Ile de Nantes, we will benefit from nearby testing facilities, such as the Ecole Centrale de Nantes’s towing tank and wave tank, as well as from an industrial environment that is particularly advanced in areas of mechanical and electrical engineering, and naval construction.”

If all suitable underwater locations were equipped with tidal generators, it would be possible to generate 100 TWh of electricity annually: enough to supply power to 20 million households in Western Europe.