Irish engineers trial hydrofoil to cut tidal energy costs

Engineers from Trinity College Dublin have tested a next-gen hydrofoil-based anchoring device to check whether it might offer a reliable means of fixing an energy-generating tidal array to the sea floor.

The hydrofoil’s performance was trialed at a tidal testing facility in Netherlands using a custom-built instrumentation platform and mounting system.

The tests have shown that hydrofoil systems could cut the costs related to the deployment and retrieval of tidal flow anchoring, according to the researchers.

Gerry Byrne, and Tim Persoons, the researchers from Trinity College Dublin in charge of the project, said:

“After extensive tests we found that we could accurately predict the lift force associated. The drag force was underestimated by the numerical simulations, yet it was in line with expectations for this type of device.

“Importantly, our work has indicated that hydrofoil systems could significantly reduce the costs associated with the deployment and retrieval of tidal flow anchoring. This should assist in reducing the overall cost of energy from tidal streams and thus narrow the gap between this renewable resource and energy derived from fossil fuels.”

Several undergraduate and postgraduate engineering students at Trinity College Dublin have assisted in the design, engineering, fabrication and calibration of the test system.

If practical, the device would significantly reduce installation costs because it is considerably smaller and lighter than current options, according to Trinity College Dublin.

The hydrofoil solution is designed to be compact during deployment, but its wingspan can be expanded when it is in position, according to William Kingston, part of Trinity team working on cost reduction for tidal energy, who added that he sees other potential uses in ocean energy applications for the device.

“The UK’s tidal power resource is estimated to be more than 10 GW, which represents about 50% of Europe’s tidal energy capacity, so that provides a measure of how important it is to further develop our options in harnessing this untapped resource. Here in Ireland the theoretical gross energy content of our waters is a sizeable 230 TWh/year,” concluded Byrne.

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