Capturing energy from marine currents has always been an exciting prospect. Now, progress in wind turbine technology and off-shore oil exploitation has made this concept more of an economic reality. Although the marine environment is harsh, the energy available is more predictable and far denser than that available from wind.
The Sustainable Energy Research Group is at the forefront of the development and design of marine current energy converters that extract energy from tidal flows. To understand the potential of this new technology detailed assessment of the available tidal resource in UK waters have been conducted. The results highlight that up to 10 per cent of the UK’s current electricity demand could be generated by tidal energy.
Several of the group’s research projects have dealt with issues of designing marine current energy converters which essentially look like an ‘underwater wind turbine’. The performance of such devices has been tested on scale models at the University and in external laboratories. Tests have included the performance of rotor blade designs and models of full turbines.
Funding for the work on tidal stream energy has come from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (formerly DTI - Department of Trade & Industry) and the University’s former School of Civil Engineering and the Environment (now within the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment).
Further research is going into the development of tidal energy converter farms and their economic viability as well as how to optimise the potential for both marine current energy converters and tidal energy farms.