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Ocean Turbines Could Turn the Tide for Energy Generation

Time:2018-12-06 19:21Turbochargers information Click:

Turbines turn Could Tide Ocean

(TNS) -- SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick — The next great hope for renewable energy is moored to a dock in this Canadian port city. It resembles a beached Ferris wheel.

Designed to capture the power of the legendary tides of the Bay of Fundy, the 52-foot-diameter Cape Sharp Tidal turbine endured the winter and spring on the seabed in Nova Scotia, generating electricity. Now in port for upgrades, the 1,100-ton machine looks as if it has survived a couple rounds with a powerful adversary.

Its paint is slightly worn. Fierce Fundy currents ripped away the metal anodes attached to the machine’s rotating rim. But the turbine survived, which is an improvement over an earlier model’s performance.

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“This was the first machine that was able to generate power for that amount of time in that environment, so it was a resounding success,” said Christian Richard, director of Cape Sharp Tidal, a joint venture between Nova Scotia energy company Emera Inc. and the Irish turbine manufacturer OpenHydro.

Cape Sharp recovered the prototype from 190 feet of water in June and towed it to Saint John’s West Side Docks for modifications. It plans to redeploy the turbine this year for a new trial, along with an identical twin — taking, it hopes, another step toward the long-term goal of generating power from offshore underwater tidal farms.

Cape Sharp’s device, which can generate two megawatts of electricity, similar to a large wind turbine, is the first of several designs chosen for field tests by the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE), a nonprofit supported by the Canadian government that aims to advance tidal-power generation and explore its impact on marine life. The lessons learned here could be applied around the world at places with potential for producing tidal energy, such as the mouth of Delaware Bay, off Cape May Point.

While renewable wind and solar power have become commercially competitive in recent years, the technology to unlock the vast clean-energy potential of the world’s oceans has been elusive.

Cape Sharp Tidal company has successfully deployed an experimental underwater turbine that generates electricity from the extreme tidal flows of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

Designing a power plant that can withstand the harsh marine environment and capture in-stream tidal energy at a competitive price has proved to be a challenge.

Few places rival the Bay of Fundy’s potent tides, where the water level can rise and fall twice a day by as much as 50 feet. The tide here is a striking display of lunar and solar gravitational pull: It exposes the sea bottom, forces tributaries to flow upstream, and leaves docked vessels resting on the ground at low tide, like fish out of water.

In November, Cape Sharp Tidal lowered its turbine, cradled in an immense steel frame, into the Minas Passage, a three-mile-wide strait that magnifies Fundy’s tidal forces like a thumb over a hose.

“The Minas Passage has extremely high flow conditions, so it’s a proving ground for whether this is a commercially viable source of electricity elsewhere,” said Matthew Lumley, the FORCE spokesman.

The research center calls the conditions here the “Fundy Standard” for tidal technology, inadvertently invoking a Frank Sinatra standard: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” said Lumley.

Turbine designer OpenHydro, which is owned by the French industrial company Naval Group, deployed an earlier version into the Minas Passage in 2009, working with Emera’s Nova Scotia Power utility.

That test was a humbling demonstration of Fundy’s power. The 10-knot tidal forces in the passage exceeded estimates, as well as the turbine’s design. When OpenHydro retrieved its turbine a year later, its engineers said the fiberglass-reinforced plastic blades had survived only about three weeks in the fierce current.

“From an engineering perspective, it was a very good learning experience,” Richard said on a recent dockside tour of the new turbine, getting a laugh from other Cape Sharp employees. “We just took what we learned from that experience and embedded it in this design.”

The new turbine is larger, sturdier and can produce twice as much power as the first machine.

The 2009 failure only energized tidal energy’s proponents. Based on new data, researchers revised their estimates of the amount of power in the Minas Passage to 7,500 megawatts, of which about 2,500 MW could be realistically extracted. In 2005, the Electric Power Research Institute had estimated the location could yield about 300 MW.

Like other forms of renewable power, tidal energy is intermittent — electricity output ramps up every six hours and 25 minutes with each incoming or outgoing tide. But unlike unpredictable wind and solar energy, the size and time of tidal flows can be reliably forecast for years in advance.

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