Ocean Physics includes all the ways in which the marine environment can be understood using physics.
Our research group is active in Oceanography (secondary currents in curved flows, ocean waves generated by atmospheric disturbances), Numerical Modelling (interpolation of Acoustic Doppler Current Profile (ADCP) data, modeling estuarine flow) and Applied Ocean Physics (design of tidal turbine farms).
A scaling law for a renewable energy resource: Is Giga-Watt output from tidal turbine farms realistic?
Supported by the Marsden Fund 2013–2016
Power from turbines in strong tidal currents will contribute to the increasing demand for renewable energy. Currently operating tidal turbines are producing around 1 Mega-Watt of energy. Realising the Giga-Watt potential of large tidal channels such as Cook Strait could contribute significantly to meeting the NZ Government’s target of increasing electricity generation from renewable sources from 73 per cent in 2010 to 90 per cent by 2025. To do this, tidal turbine farms must scale up from a few turbines, to hundreds of turbines. Unlike wind turbine farms, production from large tidal turbine farms does not increase in direct proportion to the number of turbines, because power extraction slows flows along the entire channel. This complex interaction between power extraction and flow speeds has meant that our understanding of how power production increases as a turbine farm grows is extremely limited. The proposed work uses analytical and computational techniques to develop a fundamental scaling law to underpin the relationship between power production and farm size. This scaling law would constitute a significant step towards addressing a core question for tidal current power: is it realistic to meet a significant fraction of our future energy needs by increasing the scale of tidal turbine farms?
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