Tidal energy

Tidal energy

Tidal energy converters are exposed to extreme forces from strong and rapidly varying currents and waves. Nortek’s solutions help map these to secure a solid turbine design, monitor their energy production, and ensure safe operations through their life cycle.


  • Spatial characterization of turbulent flow
  • Precise measurement of currents through all stages of tidal energy harvesting projects
  • Concurrent measurements of wave, current and rapid-velocity fluctuations

What and why

What is tidal energy research with ADCPs and why is it useful?

Nortek’s ADCPs will help you establish a tidal energy station that optimizes production cost, and our ADCPs will help monitor the long-term efficiency of the energy converter.

Measurements of tidal currents are useful for researchers and engineers in three distinct phases of a tidal energy project:

In the early design phase: Tidal power plant structures are exposed to extreme and highly variable forces from tidal water currents. The combination of the physical force of water with the continued strain from currents and waves can result in damage to tidal energy installations. It is, therefore, important to measure the details of the flow regime in the early design stage of a project, to define the forces that will act on installations and to ensure that the structure will be both resilient and productive.

In the design phase, researchers and engineers need data from ADCPs to define spatial and temporal variations in currents and waves. This data is used to develop models that show the exact forces to which a tidal energy installation will be exposed, helping to determine whether the design concept is sound and able to produce the expected amount of energy.

For site surveys: The combination of numerical models and current measurements covering possible deployment locations helps define where tidal energy turbines should be placed to secure optimal energy production. A vessel-mounted ADCP that continuously measures the currents while moving to different locations within an area can help show where the energy converter should be deployed. With stationary ADCPs, measurements can be made at the exact position and height in the water column where they will operate. This helps researchers and engineers to calculate future energy production in a precise manner, and ensures turbines are deployed at the right spot and positioned in the best way possible.

During site surveys, researchers and engineers need data from current profilers to predict the tidal currents. This data is used to develop models that can estimate power production.

For operational monitoring: Tidal power plants should be monitored to secure continuous, optimal energy production. For example, it is important to make sure that the energy being produced is in line with the strength of incoming currents. Operators can monitor the tidal power plant’s performance, and take measures if specific turbines or other equipment have stopped functioning properly.

During operational monitoring, current data needs to be collected at a specific point in front of the tidal turbine (upstream), and it is common to use ADCPs that look horizontally out in front of the turbine (or other types of energy converters). 

Who it's for

Tidal energy projects that include ADCPs are required for professionals who need to test new concepts for tidal energy production, as well as those who already have a tidal energy system and need to deploy it in the best manner possible.

Doppler technology is also highly useful to scientists carrying out general research in the tidal energy field.

Technical considerations

Deployment and placement of the instrument is the most challenging aspect of measuring currents in tidal environments, due to the highly energetic and fluctuating characteristics of such sites.

The very limited time period when currents are weak enough to allow installation of the instrument means that operators need to be swift with installation, while making sure the instrument is set up to withstand the forces of tidal currents and not be displaced. In such environments, Nortek recommends installing current profilers on frames firmly placed on the ocean floor.

Technical considerations

Data presentation

Nortek can supply software that can be used in the design phase and during site surveys. Operational monitoring software is typically available from system integrators or tidal energy companies. Users with specialized requirements must ensure the processed data can be used with their own software.,

Choice of instrument

Nortek has worked closely with tidal energy research institutes across the world, as well as with industry-leading companies that build and design tidal energy plants. Our engineers have designed and adapted Nortek’s instrumentation to meet the unique challenges presented by the tidal energy industry.

As a result, Nortek can provide instrumentation for all three main phases of such projects – design, site surveys and operational monitoring.

The Signature500 and Signature1000 instruments are ideal for scientific studies of tidal energy, due to the high resolution and precision these instruments can provide when investigating rapid current speed variations. The fifth vertical beam sampling at a high rate is used to measure the turbulent kinetic energy and to understand the nature of the velocity fluctuations in the area. The Signature instruments have proven to be robust enough to withstand the forces of extreme tidal environments.

Additionally, the Vector has been used to measure turbulence in tidal currents. The Vector’s advantage is that it can measure turbulence on much smaller scales than any other field instrument. This leads to a very precise estimate of the energy dissipation rate.   

Finally, many users also need to document wave height and direction while developing tidal power projects. Instruments in both the AWAC and Signature series may be appropriate for such measurements.

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