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The University of Southampton

SESS6067 Renewable Energy from Environmental Flows: Wind, Wave and Tide

Module Overview

The atmospheric and gravitational processes present on the earth generate flows of wind and water. This module studies these resources and practical methods/technologies for extracting cost-effective electrical and other energy conversions. The main focus is on wind, wave and tidal energy devices including the use of turbines for low and high head hydroelectric schemes. Systems considered include the vital aspect of marine energy in the offshore environment including installation and system survivability. A final section considers how large scale (up to GW scale) arrays of devices should be sited and operated together. Design and laboratory assignments explore the physics and analytical methods used to assess device cost-effectiveness.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Physical principles that can be used to extract usable energy from wind, wave and current.
  • Dynamics of the ocean and atmosphere relevant to energy extraction.
  • Fluid dynamic analysis of potential or actual devices for extracting energy from the environment.
  • The methods of calculating the resultant structural loads and responses.
  • How devices are sited and the considerations required for installation, maintenance, operational control and eventual decommissioning
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Search and critically review technical literature relevant to renewable energy.
  • Analyse performance of wind and current turbines alongside a selection of wave energy devices.
  • Aware of the trade-offs between suitable sites and issues associated with performance of renewable energy systems.
  • Appreciate the complexities associated with their potential environmental impact on noise, visual intrusion, marine life alongside safety of shipping.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Think, observe, communicate, evaluate information and data, analyse and solve problems.
  • Awareness of interaction between engineering system design and local environment.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Carry out Blade Element Momentum analysis calculations for turbine performance.
  • Match performance of energy device to suitable generator system.
  • Estimate the energy yield of a specific site based on knowledge of annual variation in sea state or wind speed or marine current
  • Calculate structural loads on devices as well as on foundations, fixings/mooring systems.
  • Examine possible response modes and likely issues associated with long-term operation.
  • Carry out experimental laboratory and data analysis to test the performance of wave energy devices


• Overview of Environmental Energy Extraction Techniques: wind, wave and current • Survey of existing devices: what is in use, where are they located, operational issues, likely developments • Review of Fluid Dynamic Theory for renewable environmental device: potential flow/viscous flow, wave theory, bernoulli's, boundary layers, incompressible/compressible, cavitation, noise • Dynamics of Ocean (wave statistics and associated energy, interaction of tide on currents, geostrophic phenomena, local bathymetry • Dynamics of Atmosphere: overview of process of surface shear generating boundary layers, thermal effects giving rise to global weather systems, local wind profiles and methods of calculating influence of surface roughness on profiles, wind gradients, turbulence levels. • Suitable sites: use of energy density surveys, measuring devices for specific sites, calculating annual yield, fluctuations in supply, use of probabilistic techniques. • Analysis techniques: Blade element momentum theory for wind/wave - horizontal axis, vertical axis, uses of ducts, controllable vs fixed pitch, coastal wave, tidal lagoons, floating wave energy devices. turbines for low and high head systems. Matching power to generator system. Use of more advanced CFD. • Environmental Loading: Possible support structures, foundations, piles, moorings. Loads on device itself -centripetal, environmental, fatigue, noise generation. • Structural Response: How device and support structure respond to applied loads - motions in wave, necessary sizing for components, issues of maintainability, installation, operational. Classification and certification. • GW scale devices: Array performance for wind, wave and tidal systems. Interaction effects. Effects on costs and installation processes as well as operational /maintenance issues. • Environmental Impact, Societal Interactions and Safety: What are the issues for specific site, planning permission process, managing public understanding, EIA, mitigating negative impacts on wildlife etc, operational safety.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures and tutorials including industry lectures. • Computer design laboratories and use of the Boldrewood 138 m long towing tank laboratory to study wave energy devices. • Blackboard based studies. Learning activities include • Directed reading. • Analytical assignments (three: one on design of offshore wind turbine, one on laboratory assessment of wave energy device at model and full scale (formative), one of performance of array of tidal turbines. • Access to web-based materials.

Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Follow-up work12
Wider reading or practice24
Practical classes and workshops9
Completion of assessment task24
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Wind Energy Handbook. Published technical literature, Renewable Energy UK,, ISSC, Wind Energy Handbook, DECC/TSB Website, EWTEC.EWEC conference proceedings, Renewable Energy Journal


Assessment Strategy

The design assignments: one each for wind, wave and tide embed the knowledge of how such systems can be sized and he wider engineering aspects. A closed book two hour exam tests the fundamental understanding.


A lab report


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 70%
Final Assessment  30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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