Turbulence study targets tidal-energy costs

Nortek is working with Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences on a major study of tidal turbulence in the Menai Strait, off the Welsh coast, which will help cut development costs for tidal energy.

Ocean energy represents a vast and largely untapped renewable energy resource. The global market for marine energy has been estimated to be worth around GBP 76 billion between 2016 and 2050, according to numbers previously released by the Carbon Trust.

To access this source of energy, oceanographers at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences have been awarded two major grants totaling GBP 230k to study ocean turbulence. The aim is to help improve the design and operation of tidal-energy-capture devices.

Improved risk assessment
The new project links the Bangor team with oceanographic-instrument manufacturer Nortek and marine renewable-energy survey company Partrac. This team of specialists sets out to greatly improve the assessment of risks associated with turbulence and so help reduce development costs, leading to cheaper energy from the tides.

“The shallow seas around the UK represent one of the best tidal-energy resources globally, accounting for some 10 percent of the global total. In consequence, the tidal-energy industry is an emerging and steadily growing sector of the UK economy,” says Dr Martin Austin from Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences.

The natural laboratory of the Menai Strait is an ideal location for the measurement of turbulence in energetic tidal flows.
 (Photo: David Roberts)

Physical oceanographers at Bangor University are recognized as world leaders in ocean-turbulence research. 

An experienced partner 
The findings from this project will be integrated into Nortek’s innovative product development. However, this is certainly not the first tidal-energy project for ADCP specialist Nortek.

“Nortek has been there to help the tidal-energy industry since the start. The first installation with Norwegian renewable-energy company Hammerfest Strøm was operational more than ten years ago,” says Atle Lohrmann, CEO and founder of Nortek.

In recent years, the need to understand how tidal turbines could withstand very strong currents required Nortek to develop new measurement capabilities.

“We participate in all phases of tidal-energy projects: this includes the science of understanding the current and wave climate, resource assessment at a specific location, and also monitoring the currents during production,” Lohrmann adds.

Nortek’s Signature1000 is designed for unprecedented performance in high-energy turbulent environments, and will be used by oceanographers at Bangor University as they study conditions in the Menai Strait.

Advancing turbulence measurement
The tidal-turbulence project will be executed as two related projects supported by grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS2).

The first project will focus on the collection of novel turbulence data in the Menai Strait, and also further offshore to the north-west of Anglesey. This effort will further develop the world-leading expertise in acoustic and optical observation techniques pioneered at Bangor University.

The second project will focus on advancing the measurement of turbulence in energetic tidal flows, with researchers also working in the natural laboratory of the Menai Strait. 

With Nortek’s AWAC, oceanographers at Bangor University can measure the current speed and direction in 1 m thick layers from the bottom to the surface.

Instruments in use


  • CURRENT PROFILER

    Signature1000

    High-performance mean currents and turbulence, wave height and direction
  • ACOUSTIC WAVE AND CURRENT PROFILER

    AWAC - 600 kHz

    Real-time current profiles and directional waves for intermediate water
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