Marine systems are an important potential major source of renewable energy, the government predicts the marine renewables industry could be worth $76 billion by 2050, and provide 68,000 UK-based jobs (Carbon Trust, 2011). Tidal turbines generate electricity from the kinetic energy of the tidal motions of the Earth's oceans. A typical turbine generates a maximum power of 1 MW. In order to extract an economically useful amount of energy, many such turbines must be placed in the same site. However, there are two major concerns, firstly, when a turbine is placed, it changes the flow around it and secondly, the tidal flows are not consistent and regular. There are many possible distributions of these turbines, each of which generates a different amount of power over a tidal cycle. The question arises, how should these turbines be configured to maximise the power extracted? This problem is a difficult engineering challenge of potentially major significance to the UK economy.

This question has been a major focus of the recent research of Dr Matthew Piggott in our Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, along with his collaborators at MeyGen Ltdwho describe the problem as one of their key project challenges. With support from the EPSRC IAA, Matt has been working on developing a software tool that will provide marine energy firms with turbine design layouts for potential tidal sites.

Matt continues to work on the development of these tools and recently secured over £0.5M funding from the EPSRC Software for the Future initiative in collaboration with a number of external partners and colleagues from the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, and internally with colleagues in the Departments of Computing, Mathematics and Aeronautical Engineering.

Further information may be found in the following publications:

Funke SW, Farrell PE, Piggott MD, Tidal turbine array optimisation using the adjoint approach, Renewable Energy 63, 658-673, 2014. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2013.09.031

Culley DM, Funke SF, Kramer SC, Piggott MD, Integration of cost modelling within the micro-siting design optimisation of tidal turbine arrays, Renewable Energy 85, 215-227, 2016. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2015.06.013