Scientists look at the sea bed in pursuit of future energy

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ACADEMICS at the University of Hull are carrying out research which could revolutionise the the tidal energy industry.

They are studying the way tidal stream turbines interact with the sea bed, in an attempt to make the turbines work more efficiently.

The findings could influence the shape of tidal stream energy generators around the world.

Prof Dan Parsons and Dr Stuart McLelland from the department of geography and Dr Sergei Lukaschuk from the department of engineering, are leading a team that is carrying out experiments as part of the £1m Research Council UK Energy Programme-funded project. The team is using the total environment simulator, a facility run by the university at The Deep in Hull.

Prof Parsons said: “Structures like tidal stream turbines installed on to the sea bed require detailed environmental impact assessments so that we can predict and minimise their effects on the sensitive ecosystems around them. Using the total environment simulator, we are able to model the effect of turbines on sand and fluids, creating waves, flows and sediments that simulate real conditions.”

The long term goal is to deploy prototype devices around the UK to see if they work on a real sea bed. Tidal stream energy is more predictable and continuous than wind energy. It has the potential to provide 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity demand.

Although the technology is still in its infancy, the UK has a head start over its international competitors in tidal and wave power, with seven of the world’s eight full-scale prototype devices installed in UK waters.

Prof Stephanie Haywood, who is director of CASS, the University of Hull’s centre for Renewable Energy and the Low Carbon Economy, said: “Our location in Hull has led to us building a unique body of marine and maritime influenced research expertise which is in demand around the world.”