Photo: Illustration/O2 tidal turbine rendering (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

Black & Veatch: Increasing rotor diameter key to reducing floating tidal energy costs

Using a digital twin of Orbital Marine’s O2 tidal turbine, the UK team of a US-based engineering firm Black & Veatch has found that increasing rotor diameter was key to reducing floating tidal energy costs.

Illustration/O2 tidal turbine rendering (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)
Illustration/O2 tidal turbine rendering (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

Orbital Marine Power, the Scottish developer of floating tidal stream turbines, appointed Black & Veatch’s UK renewable energy team in 2020 as lead engineering partner to support technology optimization and cost reduction engineering as part of the company’s €5 million research and development program.

The four-year program builds on Orbital’s unique floating tidal turbine technology – the O2 – in an initiative to identify and de-risk innovations capable of accelerating cost reductions for tidal stream energy. 

At the heart of this effort is a digital twin of Orbital’s current turbine design, created by Black & Veatch, which allows the teams to model turbine improvements and identify which advances deliver the lowest levelized cost of energy across the entire turbine lifecycle.

The UK renewables team is modelling the full infrastructure life cycle: development through to decommissioning; because, when seeking to reach the lowest levelized cost of energy, the greatest accuracy is achieved by maximizing the whole solution, according to the partners.

As well as looking at factors like the blade design and control system, the project is modelling factors such as wake interference – to foster commercialization at array scale.

Analysis from the first stage of the project showed whole life cycle costs for floating tidal energy could be competitive with floating offshore wind, with the potential for prices at around £60 per megawatt-hour, when deployed at scale.

Also, initial engineering analysis showed that increasing rotor diameter was key to reducing floating tidal energy costs.

Tidal energy is a significant renewable energy resource – its predictable nature makes it a valuable part of a balanced energy mix, helping to balance load and demand alongside other forms of renewables such as wind and solar power.

In addition to Black & Veatch, Orbital’s R&D program will engage with TIGER project partners and wider industry experts to advance optimizations for the O2 platform and identify and de-risk innovations that could contribute to cost reductions for tidal stream energy.


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