New research to support the huge potential of tidal power

Jan 17, 2013

(Phys.org)—New research from a global group of scientists and engineers, including from the University of Southampton, has been published in a special issue journal of the Royal Society. The work is in support of tidal power, which has the potential to provide more than 20 per cent of the UK's electricity demand.

While the predictable nature of tides makes them an ideal , more so than wind, the ability to effectively from the tides has proved elusive.

In order to develop effective tidal current technology, a special issue of the A describes the status of leading research and projects in the field to rapidly advance technology.

AbuBakr Bahaj, Professor of Sustainable at the University of Southampton and editor and contributor to the special issue, says: "The energy present in marine currents can be converted using technologies not too dissimilar to those used in wind energy. While technologies harnessing energy from the tides and currents have been discussed for many years, it is evident from recent deployment of single devices at megawatt scale that real progress has been achieved in a very short period of time.

"In essence, experience with single machines at such a power capacity, will make progress to deployment of multiple machines to convert the marine energy resource much faster than that achieved at the start of the wind energy industry."

Although the potential for marine clearly exists, the technology is presently still in a commercial prototype phase and only a handful of devices have so far been tested at full scale in the ocean. Unlike wind energy, there are currently various designs being promoted, with no single device design emerging as a winner so far.

Engineers try to tap tides in two ways: one involves building barrages across tidal estuaries that use tidal differences in sea surface elevation, so that the flowing waters turn turbines in a similar fashion as hydropower installations.

The other method involves placing turbines underwater in areas of the sea where fast flowing tidal streams, such as those found in coastal waters around the Channel Islands and Scotland. The technology could be similar to the three bladed turbines used in with the flowing waters replacing air. Developing power from offshore tidal streams is fraught with difficulty, but according to the authors of the latest research, 2013 could see a big breakthrough in tidal stream power. There are several companies planning to deploy arrays of tidal turbines in UK waters. For example MeyGen is planning to deploy tidal stream technology in Scotland's Pentland Firth that will initially generate up to 40MW of electricity, enough to power about 38,000 homes.

"This is a crucial milestone for technology development and deployment. Currently, it appears this will be the first deployment of an array of tidal stream turbines," says Professor Bahaj. "Such deployment will give a boost to the industry as it will also provide the needed data of operation in one of the most energetic areas of the sea. Overall, tidal power will also give us another component in the energy mix that's more energetic and reliable than wind."

In the journal, researchers say they are "extremely optimistic" that technology can be realised relatively soon. However, while the articles paint a positive future for , a critical element is the availability of funds to undertake such deployment.

Explore further: Ambitious EU targets for renewable energies make economic sense

More information: rsta.royalsocietypublishing.or… site/2013/1985.xhtml

Related Stories

Scotland passes turbine test to harness tidal power

May 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- An underwater turbine being used for harnessing tidal power to generate electricity for homes and businesses has successfully completed its testing period in the island of Eday, one of Orkney’s ...

Oxford turbines to harvest energy from tides

Sep 10, 2008

Oxford researchers have developed a new tidal turbine which has the potential to harness tidal energy more efficiently and cheaply, using a device which is simpler and more robust and scaleable than current ...

Tidal power plant proposed for New York's East River

Jan 11, 2011

Here's exciting news for anyone who's been watching the fledgling efforts to promote tidal power in the U.S.: A New York energy company that has been testing tidal power in the East River has filed a formal application ...

Ocean mavericks in Maine turn tide for electrical grid

Sep 19, 2012

(Phys.org)—Sadly speaking, the U.S. ocean-energy industry has had to take a back seat to Europe, where government subsidies help entrepreneurs and innovative companies work on their technologies. Happily ...

Harnessing tidal energy

Oct 26, 2010

A new company, Kepler Energy Limited, has been formed to develop a tidal turbine which has the potential to harness tidal energy more efficiently and cheaply, using a device which is simpler, more robust and ...

Recommended for you

Should the Japanese give nuclear power another chance?

Oct 24, 2014

On September 9, 2014, the Japan Times reported an increasing number of suicides coming from the survivors of the March 2011 disaster. In Minami Soma Hospital, which is located 23 km away from the power plant, ...

UK wind power share shows record rise

Oct 24, 2014

The United Kingdom wind power production has been enjoying an upward trajectory, and on Tuesday wind power achieved a significant energy production milestone, reported Brooks Hays for UPI. High winds from Hurricane Gonzalo were the force behind wind turbines outproducing nuclear power ...

Global boom in hydropower expected this decade

Oct 24, 2014

An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is underway, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies. While this is expected to double the global electricity production from hydropower, it could reduce ...

User comments : 0