An ambitious project to deliver renewable energy from ocean tides at scale and help tidal-stream energy contribute to delivering UK net-zero goals has been boosted by a £7million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The CoTide (Co-design to deliver Scalable Tidal Stream Energy) project will bring together three multidisciplinary teams from the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and Strathclyde. The group will work to make renewable-energy generation from ocean tides cheaper and more reliable and scalable, developing integrated engineering tools and solutions, together with concept designs complemented by laboratory demonstrators.
The powerful tides that surround the UK remain under-utilised but have huge potential as a source of greener power that could make a significant contribution to the country’s net-zero goal. Unlike the wind and the sun, tides ebb and flow at predictable times every day, so they have the advantage of providing power that’s both renewable and reliable.
‘As a country, we have a huge opportunity to harness the powerful tides that surround us and use innovative engineering to develop greater energy security and clean energy to help us meet our 2050 net-zero goals,’ said Richard Willden, professor of engineering science at the University of Oxford, who will lead the project. ‘This EPSRC investment in CoTide allows us to bring together world-class engineering expertise and drive forward the kind of creative, collaborative research that will ensure the UK remains a world leader in tidal-stream development and deployment.’
The CoTide researchers will work to ensure that the UK can take full advantage of this incredible resource by developing state-of-the-art tidal-stream turbine systems. Unlike more traditional tidal barrages and tidal lagoons, which require turbines to be installed in structures such as dams or sea walls, tidal stream turbines are fixed directly out at sea in the line of the strongest, most suitable tidal flows. They are cheaper to build and install, and, crucially, have less of an environmental impact.
If fully developed nationally, these systems have the potential to generate in excess of 6GW – enough to power more than five million homes, with an export market worth £25billion supporting more than 25,000 marine-energy jobs.
However, technical challenges remain, and tidal-stream systems require careful design to maximise power while providing reliability in hostile marine environments characterised by corrosive seawater and unsteady loading caused by waves, turbulence and sheared flows. To tackle this, the CoTide team includes a spectrum of expertise in all relevant areas, including device hydrodynamics, composites, rotor materials, corrosion, risk and reliability, environmental modelling and system control and optimisation. Together, these researchers will cooperate to develop and demonstrate holistic integrated tools and design processes that will significantly reduce costs by removing unnecessary redundancy and improving engineering solutions and processes.
‘We are proud to be supporting this innovative group of researchers and their push to better develop the UK’s access to clean, green, secure and reliable energy,’ said Lucy Martin, EPSRC’s deputy director for cross-council programmes. ‘The UK leads tidal-stream technology and science development, with most developers based or operating in the UK, and CoTide is a significant opportunity to secure global industry and academic leadership.’
‘We are beginning to see real commercial traction for tidal-stream projects,’ said Sue Barr, chair of the UK Marine Energy Council. ‘In order for tidal-stream energy to become more competitive, we need real step changes in system performance, reliability metrics and scalability of the technology. This will require integrated tools that can be utilised by the sector to not only improve performance, but also increase confidence for investors and guarantors. The CoTide’s project’s collaborative and innovative scope provides a real opportunity for successful outcomes.’