ELEMENT project creates intelligent tidal turbine that could slash costs by 17%

The Effective Lifetime Extension in the Marine Environment for Tidal Energy (ELEMENT) project has created an intelligent control system within a tidal energy turbine that could potentially reduce costs by over 17.7%.

Nova Innovation's turbine deployment in France. Credit: Nova Innovation.

The ELEMENT project of eleven partners, including tidal energy developers Nova Innovation and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, was completed this summer. This four-year €5 million Horizon 2020 project focused on innovating the control system in a tidal turbine to improve performance and longevity – creating more efficient energy production.

As explained, ELEMENT enabled the intelligent control system to be successfully delivered in three key operational phases. Phase 1 included onshore testing at the ORE Catapult’s testing facilities in Blyth, Northumberland to de-risk the technology and prove its viability before deploying in subsea conditions.

Phase 2 involved deploying the system in a real-world environment in the Étel Estuary in France, to test the turbine controller in estuary conditions. The third phase involved installing the system in an offshore environment in the Shetland Tidal Array in Scotland.

The project reported that the 17.7% cost reduction was achieved through gains in yield, reduction in damage and turbine lifetime extension, and based on a 10MW tidal array using Nova Innovation’s tidal turbines.

Simon Cheeseman, Sector Lead on Wave and Tidal Energy at ORE Catapult, said “the results produced by ELEMENT will help developers across the tidal sector see the benefits of introducing intelligent control systems in turbines to maximize the amount of tidal energy captured and reduce costs.”

The successful operation of the new control system in the RE50 turbine in France opens a new market opportunity to generate green energy from rivers, the project partners explained.

The ability to compare the performance of the new controller in a real-world offshore environment at the Shetland Tidal Array was also described as a major feature of the project. The results at the grid connected site showed that the intelligent control system increased electricity generation and allowed the turbines to better anticipate and manage loads, enabling them to run for longer.

Gavin Denham, ELEMENT project co-ordinator for Nova Innovation, added: “ELEMENT has enabled us to deliver a step change improvement in performance and lower the cost of tidal energy. The successful operation in real-world estuary and offshore environments shows the huge potential for the technology.” 

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