Obtaining energy from marine currents

Obtaining energy from marine currents
After the wide development of wind energy at sea, experts agree that the next step is to use the energy of marine currents, which are produced mainly by the tides.

Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM), Spain, have developed procedures and designs to obtain energy from marine currents in deep areas, optimising costs.

After the wide development of wind energy at sea, experts agree that the next step is to use the energy of marine currents, which are produced mainly by the tides. Currently, European and Canada are beginning to install the first experimental parks based on devices supported on the seabed.

It is estimated that around 80% of the energy of currents is in areas of more than 40 metres deep, so it is necessary to use newly designed  devices that can operate in these areas, where the cost of a large fixed structure makes the first generation of solutions unfeasible, and so the new second generation solutions have anchors.

Working towards sustainability

Currently, one of the disadvantages posed by new devices designed to take advantage of the energy of marine currents at high depths is its high cost of manufacturing, installation and maintenance.

Working to solve this problem, members of the Technological Research Group in Marine Renewable Energy (GITERM) of the UPM have developed a method for analysing the life cycle cost of a power generation park based on these devices, which can be used in early design phases. The procedure has been described in a recently published article in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

Amable López, researcher of the GITERM group, said: “Our GESMEY device, patented by the university, has been the first sea-tested design in the world to work fully submerged. Thanks to the cost analysis tool developed, we have been able to evaluate different design alternatives with a final objective: to reduce as much as possible the cost of energy production and to make this renewable source competitive, from a technical point of view as well as economic, helping to fight against climate change.”

The economic analysis is integrated with the development of new funding systems that use simpler and more robust systems. For the development of these systems, powerful simulation and control tools are used, also developed within the GITERM group.

These procedures and tools have enabled the initial design of the GESMEY device and its anchoring system to evolve from generators with a large rotor – similar to that of wind generators – to generators with several rotors, such as the Hive-TEC device (also patented by the UPM) that have allowed the estimated cost of the energy produced to be reduced by 30%.

José Andrés Somolinos, GITERM researcher, said: “Tidal energy is a renewable source that has an additional value in a future energy market with respect to other renewable energy sources thanks to its high predictability. In addition, tidal energy technologies are characterized by an energy free of CO2 emissions that contributes to economic growth and job creation in coastal areas and remote areas.”

Source: Polytechnic University of Madrid

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