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Harnessing the power of the sea for commercial gain

Tidal power has great potential for electricity generation. © Shutterstock/ Willyam Bradberry
Tidal power has great potential for electricity generation. © Shutterstock/ Willyam Bradberry

Tidal power has significant potential for electricity generation due to the fact that tides are more predictable than wind and solar power.

However, tidal energy conversion presents a complex engineering challenge: to produce affordable, competitive energy in one of the harshest natural environments, where access to maintenance is both expensive and high risk. An EU-funded project is meeting this challenge by testing long-range ultrasonic sensors for the automated detection of defects in tidal energy conversion devices such as turbine blades.

TidalSense Demo, which began in February 2012, is a two-year project that is building on its predecessor, TidalSense. The project will use the results obtained from TidalSense with the aim of accelerating the pace of these technologies towards commercial maturity.

‘TidalSense Demo is cost-effective as it will continually monitor the tidal blade and can classify and evaluate defects. This will result in a statistical analysis that can feed back into the design process.’

Dr Nico Avdelidis, InnotecUK

To achieve this objective, TidalSense Demo will test the feasibility of long-range ultrasonic sensors, which are made up of composite materials such as fibre metal laminates, glass or carbon fibre reinforced plastics in several tidal energy conversion devices. The project will also undertake several sea trials of the system.

‘There is no standard condition monitoring technique available that can provide details of the tidal blade integrity. The industry currently takes action when necessary - usually after a critical failure occurs, which can lead to serious and costly repairs,’ said project coordinator, Dr Nico Avdelidis from InnotecUK, the British company leading the project.

‘TidalSense Demo is cost-effective as it will continually monitor the tidal blade and can classify and evaluate defects. This will result in a statistical analysis that can feed back into the design process,’ said Avdelidis.

The consortium has already undertaken a first market analysis and is currently looking into potential buyers such as original equipment manufacturers, utilities and project developers, maintenance contractors in the oil and gas sector, and finally, research and development bodies. 

With EU funding of EUR 1.62 million, TidalSense Demo has partners in seven countries including Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Germany, Greece, and the United Kingdom.

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