Ireland: Testing reveals potential for next-gen marine turbine

Ireland: Testing reveals potential for next-gen marine turbine

The University of Galway has completed testing of a next-generation marine hydrokinetic turbine foil for renewable energy, said to have shown potential for a next-generation marine turbine.

(L-R) William Finnegan, Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator on the CRIMSON project; James McHale, Research Associate; Ciarán Kennedy, Research Fellow; Tenis Ranjan, postgraduate; all with Construct Innovate and Ryan Institute at University of Galway. Credit: Martina Regan/ University of Galway

The testing program is part of the €3.9 million European Commission’s Horizon 2020-funded CRIMSON project and involved 1.3 million fatigue cycles on the turbine foil – the highest number ever reported on a full-scale marine energy component in dry laboratory conditions.

The test foil was designed by ORPC Ireland and manufactured from a high-performance carbon fiber-reinforced polymer by ÉireComposites, the companies leading the CRIMSON project, and incorporates recycled carbon-fiber material from Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials.

“The findings from this full-scale structural testing programme help to de-risk ORPC’s technology and give insights that can be used for structural health monitoring and inform the next generation of testing standards,” said William Finnegan, Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator of CRIMSON at the University of Galway.

“The combination of such high-level design and manufacturing with University of Galway’s state-of-the-art testing will improve the reliability of river and tidal energy devices as they move closer to commercial viability.”

The tests were led by the Sustainable and Resilient Structures Research Group at the University of Galway, which is part of the Enterprise Ireland-supported technology center Construct Innovate and the University’s Ryan Institute.

According to the University of Galway, the five-meter-long foil is made from a high-performance, carbon fiber-reinforced polymer and is shaped similarly to an airplane wing. When placed perpendicular to river or tidal currents, the foils spin under that force and the technology sends clean, renewable energy via an underwater generator. Three of these foils combine in each of two turbines in the 80 kW RivGen marine hydrokinetic energy device.

The technology underwent intense stress testing in the university’s Large Structures Testing Laboratory to demonstrate its ability to withstand operational loads over its design lifetime. 

Before completing the testing campaign, a destructive static test was performed on the foil in order to demonstrate its structural integrity at loads well in excess of what is expected during operation in the marine environment. 

The next phase of the project will trial the complete turbine in operational conditions at Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche’s large towing tank in Rome, Italy. 

Tomás Flanagan, Chief Executive of ÉireComposites, said: “We’re delighted to see our work with ORPC Ireland, University of Galway, and the other partners coming to fruition and we’re excited about the commercial potential for marine hydrokinetic devices in delivering clean, sustainable energy. At a time when global interest is focused on achieving a net-zero emission future, it is great to be making advances in the technology that supports this global shift.”