A revolutionary breakthrough in tidal technology, with a unique system that uses the tidal stream in conjunction with the natural rise and fall of the tide to create electricity, has been developed by a research and development company based in Cornwall.
It is hoped that a prospective grant from the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), together with possible support from other commercial organisations, will now help turn this concept into reality.
The offshore Ocean Hydro Electricity Generator (OHEG) power plant allows electricity to be generated from the sea, around the clock.
Based on the use of tidal and chamber turbines, combined with energy accumulators, energy is created through the natural tidal stream and the rise and fall of the tide – a more reliable energy source than wind or solar technologies.
The idea is the brainchild of engineers at Hi-Spec Research and Developments Ltd, of Fowey, and a small team is currently producing a comprehensive report on the mechanical, design and economic viability of the project.
Hi-Spec Managing Director, Pat Cooke, said: “We have brought together a number of existing technologies to create the patented OHEG system. When combined with our own energy accumulator invention, this provides a unique method for generating electricity from the sea, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
To date the company has been solely funding this project, but a grant application has now been submitted to the DTI, under their Technology Programme, to help finance a full-scale feasibility study for a plant capable of producing at least 20% of Cornwall’s energy requirements.
The offshore OHEG structure would consist of three rows of chambers and two outer walls, creating four channels, with the tidal stream then diverted through these channels.
Within the chambers would be groups of energy accumulators which create power from the rise and fall of the tide. Between the rows of chambers and the outer walls are banks of tidal turbines, with four banks per channel. The OHEG plant holds back over 6 million tonnes of water every six and a half hours and in doing so creates power through the chamber turbines.
The plant also makes a suitable foundation for offshore wind turbines, although they are not essential for its operation, and the OHEG system is six times more powerful than the wind farm it supports.
Said Mr Cooke: “An ideal location would be the Bristol Channel, due to its high tide heights, strong tidal flow rates and a flat sea bed of the right depth. Our initial calculations show that the OHEG system alone would be capable of producing 200MW of electricity, with an additional 30MW achieved by the wind farm. Currently Cornwall uses about 650-700MW”.
“Whilst some concerns have previously been expressed regarding the possible erection of a barrage or dam in the Bristol Channel, which might perhaps then have an adverse effect on the immediate environment, it should be stressed that the OHEG is neither a barrage or a dam”.
“In addition to the very significant benefit of using renewable natural energy to create electricity, rather than using up rapidly depleting fossil fuels, the plant would create numerous jobs for the South West and have a major impact on the local economy, whilst at the same time putting the UK in a leading position with this new technology”.
He said that the anticipated generating figures were in line with the government’s policy to use renewable energy to create 20% of the country’s energy by 2020.
Britain is currently near the bottom of the international league of sustainable-energy producers, with just 4% of electricity coming from renewable sources. Energy Minister Mike O’Brien says the Government wants to increase this to 10% by 2010.
“We believe that our system is an excellent way to help achieve this, and that OHEG installations could become an important and valuable renewable energy source, both in the UK and internationally”, Mr Cooke concluded.