The Challenge

The future of commercial tidal energy rests on today’s efforts to reduce operational overheads and maximise energy outputs from arrays. ELEMENT will address this dual challenge by:

  • Introducing intelligent control systems to tidal turbines so they can automatically adjust their operating parameters to tidal flows, thus maximising energy capture
  • Finding better ways of capturing data on tidal stream dynamics and feeding this enhanced knowledge into the design of tidal turbines

The Innovation

The ELEMENT team will use behavioural modelling to create the world’s first intelligent tidal energy turbine, using its rotor and drivetrain as a sensor. This transformation eliminates the need for separate sensors to be attached to the turbine. This has historically presented a significant cost to tidal energy producers as they require replacing and repairing when affected by biofouling, corrosion and other common effects of the marine environment.

This move will also reduce operating costs by delivering greater operational control over the turbines, improving their reliability, lessening exposure to damaging loads and extending the lifetime of components. Other benefits are better control over environmental impacts and finer adjustment of turbines to tidal flows so they can maximise energy capture.

The rotors and control systems of the turbine models that will demonstrate ELEMENT (Nova RE50 and Nova M100) already provide some data about their condition and the dynamics of the tidal flow, but embedding artificial intelligence is the crucial innovation at the heart of the project. This super-charging of data from the turbines will feed in to design innovations too.

In total, ELEMENT will deliver a 17 per cent cost saving on the levelised cost of tidal energy thanks to reduced operating costs combined with maximised lifetime, energy capture and availability.

Project Milestones

The ELEMENT system will undergo six phases of development and testing from June 2019 to May 2023:

  • Design of the ELEMENT control system and turbine test designs
  • Onshore testing in a controlled environment (ORE Catapult’s Blyth Test and Validation Centre in the UK)
  • Estuary and tow testing conducted by Chantier Bretagne-Sud at the Étel estuary in France
  • Offshore testing at the Shetland Tidal Array
  • Production of a refined ELEMENT control system and turbine design based on test findings

Alongside the technological innovation, the project team is also committed to producing original research on the potential economic and social benefits of ocean energy to coastal communities and ensuring a harmonious relationship with sea life.

Fifteen publicly available reports will be produced, including:

  • Three environmental reports on the Shetland Tidal Array
  • Assessment of other estuary sites suitable for tidal energy installations in Europe using Nova’s experience from the Shetland Tidal Array
  • Socio-economic analysis of the future impact of tidal energy sites on local economies and societies in Europe
  • Behavioural model specifications
  • Verification Framework
  • Nova’s reports on each phase of testing
  • Chantier Bretagne-Sud’s decommissioning report

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