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The Fluid Physics of Tidal Energy Generation

Speaker: Dr Amanda Smyth, University of Oxford

The UK is set to decarbonise its electricity generation primarily through extensive development of offshore wind energy. Another relatively abundant marine renewable resource in the UK is tidal energy, which has the added benefit compared to the wind resource of being completely predictable. Furthermore, the technology of energy extraction from tides is very similar to that used in wind energy. So what is the difference between wind and tidal energy, and why has the former prospered while the latter is still struggling to reach commercial viability? In this lecture we will explore the fluid mechanics of tidal energy extraction, illustrating the interactions of turbine design, fluctuating loads, environmental impacts, and resource availability that generate a highly complex optimisation problem for tidal turbine developers, which may help explain why we have yet to converge on an "optimal" tidal turbine design.