Engineering and the Environment

Turbulent times for tidal energy researchers

24 April 2012


Researchers into tidal energy will soon be able to carry out practical work at Southampton on the generation of power in some of the UK’s roughest waters.

Dr Luke Myers has won a highly competitive Royal Society equipment grant to improve the indoor circulating water flume at the University's Science Park at Chilworth to simulate the effects of turbulent water both offshore and in rivers. This tilting flume, one of the biggest in the UK, is extensively used by academic researchers including ten PhD students.

"We need to know how turbulent water flows around weirs, dams and gates as well as turbines," he explains. "There are also many applications in offshore engineering including the oil and gas industries. This £9,000 grant will be invaluable because it will enable us to adapt the flume to create various types of turbulent water; we will even be able to explore how it affects the behaviour of fish, invertebrates and plant life." The adaptations will be carried out over the summer so research can start in the next academic year.

Luke himself is working on investigating the performance of freestream tidal turbines. It is estimated that these "underwater wind turbines" could provide ten per cent of the UK's electricity.