Developed by Scotland-based engineering company MTDS, the turbine uses vertical rotors, like revolving doors. According to the company, because the turbine’s blades move at about the same speed as the current – unlike conventional rotors that slice across the water flow – efficiency is maximised and potential marine life impacts are reduced or removed. With no need to dam rivers and estuaries, habitat disturbance is also minimised.

A full-scale version of the device will now be built for a 12-month demonstration project on the Amazon. The components of the full-scale prototype, at nearly 50 tonnes and nearly 20ft (6m) wide, are to be manufactured in Caithness, Scotland, then shipped to Brazil and built and installed by the Scottish team by late 2010.

The Amazon was selected in partnership with a major energy-related organisation in Brazil. After up to a year of operational and environmental monitoring, MTDS’s South American project partner, will retain the rights to license the device in Brazil, while the Scottish company will then market it elsewhere.

“There is huge potential for riverside villages and towns without access to sufficient power, or requiring green energy,” said MTDS owner and design engineer James Mowat. “Prime markets range from Chile and Uruguay, through China, India and Russia.”

A scale model turbine has performed successfully in controlled trails and the full-scale version will now be built and tested to verify the power output. Despite its size, it will be smaller and many times lighter than other tidal turbines, allowing easier transport and installation, says the company.