New project demonstrates the cost of tidal energy could be reduced by 17 per cent

An innovative project involving one of Scotland’s tidal energy pioneers has created an intelligent control system within a tidal energy turbine that could potentially slash costs by over 17.7 per cent.

New project demonstrates the cost of tidal energy could be reduced by 17 per cent

The ELEMENT (Effective Lifetime Extension in the Marine Environment for Tidal Energy) project, which completed this summer, was a four-year €5 million Horizon 2020 project, bringing together the expertise of 11 partners, including tidal energy developers Nova Innovation, and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult. It focussed on innovating the control system in a tidal turbine to improve performance and longevity – creating more efficient energy production.

ELEMENT enabled the intelligent control system to be successfully delivered in three key operational phases. Phase 1 included rigorous onshore testing at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s testing facilities in Blyth, Northumberland to de-risk the technology and prove its viability before deploying in subsea conditions.

Phase 2 involved deploying the system in a real-world environment in the Étel Estuary in France, to test the turbine controller in estuary conditions. The third phase involved installing the system in an offshore environment in the Shetland Tidal Array in Scotland.

The 17.7 per cent cost reduction was achieved through gains in yield, reduction in damage and turbine lifetime extension, and based on a 10MW tidal array using Nova Innovation’s tidal turbines.

Simon Cheeseman, Sector Lead on Wave and Tidal Energy at ORE Catapult, said: “The ELEMENT project has proved to be a significant development in the journey of tidal energy.

“As part of ELEMENT’s onshore testing phase, Nova Innovation’s RE50 tidal turbine was put through its paces on ORE Catapult’s powertrain test rig at our world leading facilities in Blyth – to replicate the conditions of a tidal turbine operating underwater and verify the ELEMENT control system performance. The results produced by ELEMENT will help developers across the tidal sector see the benefits of introducing intelligent control systems in turbines to maximise the amount of tidal energy captured and reduce costs.”

The successful operation of the new control system in the RE50 turbine in France opens a new market opportunity to generate green energy from rivers. The ability to compare the performance of the new controller in a real-world offshore environment at the Shetland Tidal Array was also a major feature of the project. The results at the grid connected site showed that the intelligent control system increased electricity generation and allowed the turbines to better anticipate and manage loads, enabling them to run for longer.

Gavin Denham, ELEMENT project co-ordinator for Nova Innovation, added:

“ELEMENT has enabled us to deliver a step change improvement in performance and lower the cost of tidal energy. The successful operation in real-world estuary and offshore environments shows the huge potential for the technology.” 

Ocean Energy Europe has stated that ocean energy could provide 10 per cent of Europe’s current electricity needs by 2050 which is enough to power 94 million homes. Findings from the ELEMENT project have moved Europe closer towards the commercial roll-out of clean, green, tidal energy with the knowledge to create more efficient commercial multi-turbine tidal arrays.