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Winged 'Sea Dragons' Can Generate Electricity For 25,000 Homes

The tidal turbines will help the Faroe Islands reach net-zero emission energy generation by 2030.

Swedish engineering firm Minesto, a spin-off of Saab, developed a series of tidal turbines, or "sea dragons", that look like submerged aircraft, a report from the BBC reveals.

The company is running two of the winged machines in the waters of the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, where they generate electricity from the ocean's current.

The tidal turbines, or kites, are tethered to the seabed by 131-feet (40-meter) metal cables. This, as well as their 16-feet (five-meter) wingspan, allows each of them to glide through the water in a figure-of-eight pattern and generate enough electricity to power approximately four or five homes.

The principle is surprisingly similar to a flying wind turbine we reported on back in October, developed by Kitekraft. In a similar fashion to an aircraft, Minesto's winged  turbines generate momentum and electricity via lift exerted by the flow of water, as opposed to air. Kitekraft's machines, meanwhile, provide the benefit that they can be reigned in during storms or extremely high wind conditions to prevent damage to the systems. Both of these company's systems can be deployed as fleets, with each of the machines tethered far enough apart that they won't collide.

Tidal turbines boost efforts for net-zero emission energy  

Minesto's tidal turbines use an onboard computer to steer them into the prevailing current, making them as efficient as possible. Electricity is sent via the tether cable to another undersea cable that is connected to a control station near the coastal town of Vestmanna.

The two kites that are currently in use have been contributing to the Faroe Islands' national grid as part of a trial run over the past year. According to Minesto, the firm is currently working on new kites with a wingspan of 39 feet (12 meters) rather than 16 feet (five meters). These will be able to generate 1.2 megawatts of power, meaning that an underwater fleet would be enough to power half of the Faroe Islands' 50,000 households. The project aims to help the islands achieve their goal of generating all of their electricity from renewables by 2030.

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Minesto's project joins a list of ambitious tidal turbine projects that are being developed to help the world's governments meet their emissions goals. Earlier this year, for example, Scottish engineering firm Orbital Marine Power announced its 680-metric-ton tidal turbine, called O2, started sending power to the grid in the UK. 

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