After securing several wave and tidal energy projects in the UK and internationally TNEI is expanding its marine energy team in line with what it sees as a strengthening market.
Ocean WaveMaster Limited, developer of an unusually large scale wave energy converter, has commissioned TNEI to provide modeling support for the latest phase of work.
The device’s original development was funded by the Carbon Trust and the DTI and culminated in tests at NaREC, the New and Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland. Tests were carried out on an 18 metre model with positive results.
Ocean WaveMaster’s design offers the opportunity for continuous power generation and this in part has spurred on further development work to determine how the device can achieve its full potential.
Tests indicate that depending on the sea state, a large scale WaveMaster machine could generate significant levels of power, in excess of 20 MW of energy. Another major advantage is that being below the surface of the water, the device is less susceptible to sea damage. Alternative applications for WaveMaster are now being considered to enable local, small scale power generation.
Charlotte Higgins, who has recently joined TNEI with a background in aerospace engineering and in the field of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), will carry out CFD analysis on the WaveMaster. Her work aims to characterise and improve WaveMaster’s efficiency over the full range of anticipated sea states. The analysis is currently underway with results and a detailed commercial plan expected towards the end of the year.
Generating electricity from deep water waves several kilometres offshore is fraught with technical problems. TNEI has identified a technology gap common to several deep water devices and to tackle this, Nick Baker joined TNEI in June 2008 bringing with him 9 years of research experience from two UK Universities, which lead research in this field. TNEI has been awarded a grant from the Carbon Trust under their marine energy accelerator program to develop a power take off component for wave energy devices.
In the UK and internationally, a large number of innovative technical marine energy devices are at various different stages of commercial development. There are two common problems shared by many of these concepts. Firstly the type of motion experienced by wave energy devices is ill suited to traditional electrical machines – waves are too slow for traditional generators. Waves oscillate at peak speeds of 2 metres per second m/s whereas conventional electrical generators are designed for rotary motion with airgap speeds in the region of 60 metres per second m/s.
The other major problem associated with marine energy is the cost and logistics of mooring devices in deep waters. Deep water devices cannot rely on the seabed for reaction provision due to the prohibitive cost of mooring. However, it is not possible to convert the kinetic energy of a wave energy device unless it can react against something. Any deep water device must therefore make provision for an inertial reference.
The marine energy team at TNEI is currently researching alternative solutions to both these problems.
Commenting on TNEI’s marine energy developments, Matthew Lumsden, Business Development Director at TNEI explained:
“We have now built a team with the expertise required to make a significant impact on the development of marine projects and technologies. We are hoping to develop long term relationships with clients so that we can help install and trial technologies as soon as possible.”