UWB Crest

Shelf Sea Modelling Research Group

Marine Renewable Energy

La Coruna

In collaboration with Scott Couch (Edinburgh University) and Alan Davies (Bangor University), I have been determining the environmental impact of exploiting the tidal stream resource. Initially, this has been through modelling changes to the sediment dynamics of a large estuarine system (the Bristol Channel). You can read a summary of this research on NERC Planet Earth Online. We are presently incorporating the impacts of energy extraction by marine renewables into state-of-the-art three-dimensional tidal models (e.g. Neill et al., 2011). This research is funded by the Low Carbon Research Institute (LCRI) in Wales. Most recently, I have begun a collaboration with Gregorio Iglesias (University of Santiago de Compostela), modelling the nearshore impacts of wave energy converters. This collaboration has so far been supported by a Santander Mobility Scholarship (awarded to Simon Neill).

Our work into modelling the environmental impact of marine renewables has received a recent boost in the form of the £40M High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales project. This considerably increases our modelling capability, allowing us to include feedbacks between the evolving bathymetry and the hydrodynamics over long (several decades) timescales.

Our numerical simulations (Neill et al., 2009) demonstrate that a full-scale (250 MW) tidal stream turbine farm placed in a large estuary (the Bristol Channel) could have serious implications on large-scale sediment dynamics, with the effects measurable up to 50 km from the site of energy extraction. However, by strategically locating the farm with reference to the natural tidal asymmetry of the system, this impact can be minimised (see figure below). In (a), the tidal stream farm has been placed in a region of sediment divergence (tidal symmetry), (b) tidal stream farm in region of tidal asymmetry and (c) tidal stream farm in region of sediment convergence (tidal symmetry).

bristol channel

Excellent animations of the principals of operation of tidal stream turbine farms are available from OpenHydro (file size is 21.5MB) and Marine Current Turbines.

Relevant publications:

Relevant research funding: