Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welsh Environment Minister Puts Funding Behind Renewable Energy

By Theodora Filis

 A unique project to test clean electricity generation from the tides off the West Wales coast is to receive a £1.4m EU funding boost said Environment Minister, Jane Davidson. “Earlier this year I launched our energy policy statement A Low Carbon Revolution which outlines that Wales has the potential to produce nearly twice the amount of electricity it currently uses, through wholly renewable sources by 2025.”

Although not yet widely used, tidal power has potential for future electricity generation. Tides are more predictable than wind energy and solar power. Among sources of renewable energy, tidal power has traditionally suffered from relatively high cost and limited availability of sites with sufficiently high tidal ranges or flow velocities, thus constricting its total availability. However, many recent technological developments and improvements, both in design (e.g. dynamic tidal power, tidal lagoons) and turbine technology (e.g. new axial turbines, cross flow turbines), are suggesting that the total availability of tidal power may be much higher than previously assumed, and that economic and environmental costs may be brought down to competitive levels.

Because the Earth's tides are caused by the tidal forces due to gravitational interaction with the Moon and Sun, and the Earth's rotation, tidal power is practically inexhaustible and classified as a renewable energy source. A tidal generator uses this phenomenon to generate electricity. The stronger the tide, either in water level height or tidal current velocities, the greater the potential for tidal electricity generation.

The money will be spent on a feasibility study to develop DeltaStream technology and assess the suitability of a site in West Wales for tidal stream testing. It will be backed with £572,000 from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government.

DeltaStream was conceived by Marine Engineer Richard Ayre with initial research funding from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Marine Nature Reserve. Experts from Cranfield University in England undertook detailed design and optimisation of the blade design with funding from Carbon Connections.

DeltaStream uses the same concept as a wind turbine together with ship propeller technology. The benefits of this design include:

Lightweight gravity foundation
Easy to manufacture
Easy to deploy and recover
Easy to maintain
Low cost
Operates in varied water depth and velocity
Avoids shipping
Low environmental impact

The device will save substantial amounts of CO2 by the direct replacement of the electrical energy from fossil fuels or the growth requirement from a renewable resource.

As part of the package Tidal Energy Limited, the company behind the technology, will be able to carry out site surveys, environmental assessments and design work at the proposed demonstration site at Ramsey Sound, Pembrokeshire.

It is expected that the funding will lead to the deployment of a full-scale prototype device in 2011.

This environmental writer hopes to be writing about the success of this program in the near future