Engineers pinpoint potential for tide-driven electrical turbines
By Summit Voice
FRISCO —A well-designed and well-sited network of tidal turbines in Scotland’s Pentland Firth could generate 1.9 gigawatts of electricity — enough to supply half of the country’s power demand.
The channel at the northern tip of Scotland has long been studied as a potential source of power because of the strong tidal flows. The latest study by engineers at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh offers valuable insights into how to develop and regulate this clean energy resource effectively.
The engineers said their study improves on previous estimates of the generating capacity of turbines embedded in the Firth – ranging from 1 to 18 GW – which were too simplistic or based on inappropriate models. Researchers calculated that as much as 4.2 GW could be captured, but because tidal turbines are not 100 per cent efficient, they say that 1.9 GW is a more realistic target.
To exploit the Firth’s full potential, turbines would need to be located across the entire width of the channel. In order to minimize the impacts on sea life and shipping trade, a number of individual sites have been identified for development by the UK Crown Estate, which will lease these sites to tidal energy firms.
Researchers have pinpointed locations where turbines would need to be positioned for the Firth to meet its full energy production potential.
The research was commissioned and funded as part of the Energy Technologies Institute’s Performance Assessment of Wave and Tidal Array Systems project.
“Our research builds on earlier studies by analysing the interactions between turbines and the tides more closely,” said University of Edinburgh Professor Alistair Borthwick. “This is a more accurate approach than was used in the early days of tidal stream power assessment, and should be useful in calculating how much power might realistically be recoverable from the Pentland Firth.”
“The UK enjoys potentially some of the best tidal resources worldwide, and if we exploit them wisely they could make an important contribution to our energy supply,” said Professor Guy Houlsby, with the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford.