India plans Asian tidal power first

Tidal turbine The Atlantis AK1000 turbine will be deployed in the Gulf of Kutch

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The Indian state of Gujarat is planning to host Asia's first commercial-scale tidal power station.

The company Atlantis Resources is to install a 50MW tidal farm in the Gulf of Kutch on India's west coast, with construction starting early in 2012.

The facility could be expanded to deliver more than 200MW.

The biggest operating tidal station in the world, La Rance in France, generates 240MW, while South Korea is planning several large facilities.

To claim the title of "Asia's first", the Indian project will have to outrun developments at Sihwa Lake, a South Korean tidal barrage under construction on the country's west coast.

Atlantis's recent feasibility study in Gujarat concluded that the state had good potential for tidal exploitation.

"About two and a half years ago we ran a global study of tidal power resources and came up with some hotspots where resource seemed pretty well matched to load," said Atlantis CEO Tim Cornelius.

"One of them was the Gulf of Kutch - and since then we've had wonderful support from the government, culminating in the announcement that the project was going ahead," he told BBC News.

Projections indicate that the cost of the initial 50MW farm - to consist of 50 1MW turbines - will come in at about $150m.

As much of the manufacturing as possible will take place in Gujarat, taking advantage of the skills base in India's booming wind turbine industry.

Tide turning?

The current timescale has the project's final engineering plans completed by the end of this year, with construction commencing early next year and completing by 2013.

Map showing Gulf of Kutch

"Gujarat has significant resource in the waters of its coast, so tidal energy represents a huge opportunity for us," said DJ Pandian, chairman and managing director of Gujarat Power Corporation.

"This project will be India's and indeed Asia's first at commercial scale, and will deliver important economic and environmental benefits for the region, as well as paving the way for similar developments within Gujarat."

Tidal power is a tiny contributor to global electricity generation, even compared with other renewables.

But there is a feeling in the industry that a phase of fast expansion is beginning.

In October, a consortium including Atlantis was given the right to develop a tidal farm involving about 400 turbines in the Pentland Firth in Scotland, which as things stand would be the world's biggest - although South Korea's proposed Incheon barrage would come in at over 1GW.

China, and other parts of India, are also seen as productive areas in the near future.

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