RWE is to broaden its profile in the renewable energy industry by investing in ocean current technologies being developed by Voith Hydro.

The two German companies are to create a joint venture aimed at accelerating the development, manufacture and marketing of ocean current technologies, which harness the energy of sub-sea currents. RWE will hold a 20 per cent stake in the business.

Voith says that teaming up with RWE will help it to make ocean current technology competitive. Voith has been developing the technology since 2005 and already has plans to deploy a prototype turbine at a site in South Korea.

Both companies have experience in the marine energy field and are already collaborating on the development of a commercial-scale wave power plant in Scotland. They say that ocean current technology has potential that must be tapped.

“This form of renewable power generation has a significant advantage: ocean currents flow continuously and can therefore be predicted with maximum accuracy,” said Prof. Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, Chairman of the Board of RWE Innogy. “As a result, the volume of electricity fed into the grid can be forecast much more precisely than that of any other renewable energy carrier.”

The two partners have committed to investing a total of EUR30 million in the business over the next few years.

RWE Innogy last year announced plans to build a 10 MW tidal scheme off the coast of North Wales with Marine Current Turbines. It is also collaborating with Voith subsidiary Wavegen to build the 4 MW Siadar wave farm on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland.

“We are absolutely convinced: ocean current power stations and hence renewable energy from the seas, will be an important building block within the energy mix of the future. The cooperation of two partners of such a high caliber is a milestone in the development and the marketing of this young technology,” Said Dr. Hubert Lienhard, CEO of Voith AG.

Voith has developed a 110 kW prototype turbine that, says the company, is robust in design and eco-friendly. It plans to deploy the machine off the South Korean coast by the end of 2009, with further test plants planned for European waters.

The project in South Korea will eventually expand to produce several hundred MW, says Voith.