Power density of tidal stream farms

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Imagine sticking underwater windmills on the sea-bed. The flow of water will turn the windmills. Because the density of water is roughly 1000 times that of air, the power of water flow is 1000 times greater than the power of wind at the same speed.

What power could tidal stream farms extract? It depends crucially on whether or not we can add up the power contributions of tidefarms on adjacent pieces of sea-floor. For wind, this additivity assumption is believed to work fine: as long as the wind turbines are spaced a standard distance apart from each other, the total power delivered by 10 adjacent wind farms is the sum of the powers that each would deliver if it were alone.

Does the same go for tide farms? Or do underwater windmills interfere with each other's power extraction in a different way? I don't think the answer to this question is known in general. We can name two alternative assumptions, however, and identify cartoon situations in which each assumption seems valid. The "tide is like wind" assumption says that you can put tide-turbines all over the sea-bed, spaced about 5 diameters apart from each other, and they won't interfere with each other, no matter how much of the sea-bed you cover with such tide farms.

The "you can have only one row" assumption, in contrast, asserts that the maximum power extractable in a region is the power that would be delivered by a single row of turbines facing the flow. A situation where this assumption is correct is the special case of a hydroelectric dam: if the water from the dam passes through a single well-designed turbine, there's no point putting any more turbines behind that one. You can't get 100

10 11 time (days)

Figure G.5. (a) Tidal current over a 21-day period at a location where the maximum current at spring tide is 2.9 knots (1.5 m/s) and the maximum current at neap tide is 1.8 knots (0.9 m/s).

(b) The power per unit sea-floor area over a nine-day period extending from spring tides to neap tides. The power peaks four times per day, and has a maximum of about 27W/m2. The average power of the tide farm is 6.4 W/m2.

times more power by putting 99 more turbines downstream from the first. The oomph gets extracted by the first one, and there isn't any more oomph left for the others. The "you can have only one row" assumption is the right assumption for estimating the extractable power in a place where water flows through a narrow channel from approximately stationary water at one height into another body of water at a lower height. (This case is analysed by Garrett and Cummins (2005, 2007).)

I'm now going to nail my colours to a mast. I think that in many places round the British Isles, the "tide is like wind" assumption is a good approximation. Perhaps some spots have some of the character of a narrow channel. In those spots, my estimates may be over-estimates.

Let's assume that the rules for laying out a sensible tide farm will be similar to those for wind farms, and that the efficiency of the tidemills will be like that of the best windmills, about 1/2. We can then steal the formula for the power of a wind farm (per unit land area) from p265. The power per unit sea-floor area is power per tidemill area per tidemill n 1 ,t3 2002^

Using this formula, table G.6 shows this tide farm power for a few tidal currents.

Now, what are typical tidal currents? Tidal charts usually give the currents associated with the tides with the largest range (called spring tides) and the tides with the smallest range (called neap tides). Spring tides occur shortly after each full moon and each new moon. Neap tides occur shortly after the first and third quarters of the moon. The power of a tide farm would vary throughout the day in a completely predictable manner. Figure G.5 illustrates the variation of power density of a tide farm with a maximum current of 1.5 m/s. The average power density of this tide farm would be 6.4 W/m2. There are many places around the British Isles where the power per unit area of tide farm would be 6 W/m2 or more. This power density is similar to our estimates of the power densities of wind farms (2-3 W/m2) and of photovoltaic solar farms (5-10 W/m2).

We'll now use this "tide farms are like wind farms" theory to estimate the extractable power from tidal streams in promising regions around the British Isles. As a sanity check, we'll also work out the total tidal power crossing each of these regions, using the "power of tidal waves" theory, to check our tide farm's estimated power isn't bigger than the total power available. The main locations around the British Isles where tidal currents are large are shown in figure G.7.

I estimated the typical peak currents at six locations with large currents by looking at tidal charts in Reed's Nautical Almanac. (These estimates could easily be off by 30%.) Have I over-estimated or under-estimated the area of each region? I haven't surveyed the sea floor so I don't know if some regions might be unsuitable in some way - too deep, or too shallow, or too

U

tide farm

(m/s)

(knots)

power

(W/m2)

0.5

1

1

1

2

8

2

4

60

3

6

200

4

8

500

5

10

1000

Table G.6. Tide farm power density (in watts per square metre of sea-floor) as a function of flow speed U. (1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 0.514 m/s.) The power density is computed using ^^plT3 (equation (G.10)).

Table G.6. Tide farm power density (in watts per square metre of sea-floor) as a function of flow speed U. (1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 0.514 m/s.) The power density is computed using ^^plT3 (equation (G.10)).

0 200 400

Figure G.7. Regions around the British Isles where peak tidal flows exceed 1 m/s. The six darkly-coloured regions are included in table G.8:

1. the English channel (south of the Isle of Wight);

2. the Bristol channel;

3. to the north of Anglesey;

4. to the north of the Isle of Man;

5. between Northern Ireland, the Mull of Kintyre, and Islay; and

6. the Pentland Firth (between Orkney and mainland Scotland), and within the Orkneys.

There are also enormous currents around the Channel Islands, but they are not governed by the UK. Runner-up regions include the North Sea, from the Thames (London) to the Wash (Kings Lynn). The contours show water depths greater than 100 m. Tidal data are from Reed's Nautical Almanac and DTI Atlas of UK Marine Renewable Energy Resources (2004).

tricky to build on.

Admitting all these uncertainties, I arrive at an estimated total power of 9 kWh/d per person from tidal stream-farms. This corresponds to 9% of the raw incoming power mentioned on p83, 100 kWh per day per person. (The extraction of 1.1kWh/d/p in the Bristol channel, region 2, might conflict with power generation by the Severn barrage; it would depend on whether the tide farm significantly adds to the existing natural friction created by the channel, or replaces it.)

Region

U

power

area

average

raw

power

(knots)

density

(km2)

power

d

w

N

S

N

S (W/m2)

(kWh/d/p)

(m)

(km)

(kWh/d/p)

1

1.7

3.1

7

400

1.1

30

30

2.3

7.8

2

1.8

3.2

8

350

1.1

30

17

1.5

4.7

3

1.3

2.3

2.9

1000

1.2

50

30

3.0

9.3

4

1.7

3.4

9

400

1.4

30

20

1.5

6.3

5

1.7

3.1

7

300

0.8

40

10

1.2

4.0

6

5.0

9.0

170

50

3.5

70

10

24

Total 9

Table G.8. (a) Tidal power estimates assuming that stream farms are like wind farms. The power density is the average power per unit area of sea floor. The six regions are indicated in figure G.7. N = Neaps. S = Springs. (b) For comparison, this table shows the raw incoming power estimated using equation (G.1) (p312).

v v Friction power tide farm power

3 6 270 80 200

4 8 640 190 500

5 10 1250 375 1000

Table G.9. Friction power density R\pU3 (in watts per square metre of sea-floor) as a function of flow speed, assuming R1 = 0.01 or 0.003. Flather (1976) uses R1 = 0.0025-0.003; Taylor (1920) uses 0.002. (1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 0.514 m/s.) The final column shows the tide farm power estimated in table G.6. For further reading see Kowalik (2004), Sleath (1984).

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Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

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Responses

  • petri haapaniemi
    What energy transformations in tidal stream farms?
    7 months ago

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