IT is the ultimate 21st-century Utopia. An entirely energy self-sufficient city which is so "green" its adverse effect on the environment is absolutely zero.

In this city every home is equipped with solar panels and its own mini-wind turbine.

Buildings are low and greenery on the roof serves as a natural insulation.

Electricity is generated by heat, wind or by burning organic waste and 80 per cent of solid waste is recycled.

Car sharing is de rigueur but most people get about on electric scooters and bikes or on foot.

Water is collected, treated and recycled within the city boundaries and there is a two-mile buffer zone of eco-farm between the city and the surrounding wetlands.

This isn't an environmentalist's dream - the eco-city is already taking shape on the other side of the world.

Dongtan - on the Chinese island of Chongming near Shanghai- is the world's first eco-island and will be the only carbon-free city on the planet.

However, thousands of miles across the ocean, another island is vying for Dongtan's green crown.

The Isle of Wight may seem an unlikely candidate for a pioneering eco-island but councillors believe ambitious plans to turn it into the next Dongtan could be realised within a decade.

In fact experts at Southampton University - some of whom worked on the Dongtan project - are keen to apply their skills closer to home.

Academics at the university's school of civil engineering and environment are already investigating energy potential on the Isle of Wight.

And the diagnosis looks good.

"I believe the Isle of Wight could be a suitable site for an eco-island," said Professor William Powrie.

"It is certainly starting from a good basis because its ecological footprint is already low compared to other parts of the country."

Prof Powrie and his team are looking into the possibility of using tidal turbines to generate electricity on the Island.

The turbines - smaller versions of land-based wind turbines - would sit submerged on the seabed, using the power of the ocean currents to turn their blades and extract energy for electricity.

"We've been working with the Oceanography centre in Southampton looking for suitable locations for the turbines in terms of the tides, water traffic, the currents and proximity to the electric grid," explained Prof Powrie.

"I believe the Solent and areas of the Isle of Wight will fulfil these requirements. The currents are strong enough to extract the amount of energy needed and, importantly, they are consistent."

Suitable sights for an array of turbines have already been identified including a tidal race off St Catherine's Point at the upper western tip of the Island and an area to the south, off Blackgang Chine.

Installing between 20 and 40 tidal turbines off the Isle of Wight coast could produce enough energy to generate ten per cent of the Island's annual electricity supply - and would be the first step in its bid for eco-city status.

For the full story, see today's Daily Echo