This project originally aimed to investigate social and ecological constraints on marine energy design, and to validate any presently unverified assumptions so that energy production could be optimised. However, it quickly became apparent that the present generation of marine energy devices has been designed using proof of concept approaches: to survive in energetic marine environments and to generate electricity as efficiently as possible. Of course developers must consider local ecosystems and stakeholders as part of impact assessments, but as of yet devices are not explicitly designed for minimal environmental footprint. Instead the Scottish Government has adopted a policy of Survey, Deploy and Monitor to highlight any environmental impacts and inform the design of future devices and arrays. Rather than social and ecological, the key constraints on marine energy appear to be technical and financial; so the project outline was updated to better suit the needs of the industry.
Tidal energy devices will be deployed in relatively close proximity to exploit localised resource hotspots, but since energy extraction alters the nature of the flow, interactions between devices may significantly affect the available power. This project now aims to investigate flow modification by tidal turbines, the potential for interactions between arrays in multiply-connected flow regimes, and how practical constraints such as array connectivity may effect the amount of power available to a given turbine array. It is hoped that this research will contribute to a greater understanding of tidal current resources and the cumulative effects of tidal energy extraction.
Professor Alistair Borthwick