Japan has entered the tidal power age with a pilot turbine installed in the waters of the Goto Islands archipelago having clocked up is first hours of generation following installation late last year by developer Kyuden Mirai Energy (MRE).

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The ¥1.8bn ($16.5m) pilot – based around a 500kW model of the Simec Atlantis Energy (SAE) AR1500 technology installed at the MeyGen array off Scotland – generated its lead-off 10MWh at its location in the straits of Naru Island off the southern tip of the Asian nation.

KME plans to road-test the machine, which flies a 17-metre-diamater rotor, through the year.

“Our team, who worked efficiently and most of all safely during a worldwide pandemic, [has brought] tidal stream energy to Japan,” said SAE CEO Graham Reid. “Throughout the project we have also received great support from our strategic partner, KME, who was supported by a consortium of local and international stakeholders.”

“This is a huge milestone for the deployment of clean, renewable energy from tidal stream and we hope it will be the first of many tidal turbines installed in Japan.”

Reid noted that the project had been a fast-track development, with offshore construction taking five days to complete, including laying of the export cable, landing the foundation structure and ballast to the sea floor, and installation of the turbine, which was manufactured and assembled at SAE’s operations and maintenance base at Nigg Energy Park in Scotland.

Japan’s tidal power potential has long been recognised, with various devices, such as the pioneering open-centred concept developed by OpenHydro being put forward for early – though never-realised – demonstrator projects, and several hybrid marine renewable energy designs, including Modec’s failed Skwid prototype , featuring tidal power generators.

Feature underwater currents speeding along at over up-to 4 metres per second, the Goto Islands is thought to be one richest tidal plays in the world, with a multi-gigawatt resource thought to be harnessable from the currents coursing round the 900 islands that make up the archipelago off Nagasaki.

Thought no expansion plans are finalised, SAE told Recharge the Naru strait was “an ideal candidate” for a commercial array.

“The site is close to shore, protected from ocean waves, has relatively low turbulence levels and doesn’t encroach on any major shipping routes,” the company said. “The he pilot turbine is the first step on a development roadmap that culminates in the installation of commercial arrays within both the Naru strait and other Japanese waters.

“SAE hopes to follow this path with KME, our development partners, and with support from the Ministry of Environment in Japan.”

Ocean energy production could grow 20-fold this decade to reach 10GW of installed capacity, with tidal and wave plants providing mainstream power generation and spurring forward a global blue economy that will bring “major benefits” to small island developing states and coastal communities, according to recent calculations from the International Renewable Energy Agency .