New project aiming to improve performance of tidal turbines starts up in Scotland

The €10 million MAXBlade project has officially kicked off with an aim to deliver a range of innovations to improve the performance and reduce costs of Orbital Marine Power’s tidal turbines.

Princess Royal addresses guests during her visit to FastBlade facility (Photo by Neil Hana/Courtesy of the University of Edinburgh)
Princess Royal addresses guests during her visit to FastBlade facility (Photo by Neil Hana/Courtesy of the University of Edinburgh)

Funded by the European Union and UK Research and Innovation, the project will investigate the full lifecycle of tidal turbine blades, from materials, manufacture and operation, to decommissioning and recyclability.

The long-term aim is to ensure the European composite sector becomes the international leader in tidal blade manufacture.

The University of Edinburgh, one of the partners in the project, said that the initiative will involve a two-year design and development phase, followed by an 18-month build, during which blades will undergo advanced structural testing at its FastBlade facility.

MAXBlade is expected to increase the length of the turbine blades from 10 to 13 metres. The project team said that boosting blade length will have the ‘single greatest impact’ on reducing the cost of tidal energy.

The university further explained that the technology will then undergo two years of real-world testing at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. 

Two of Orbital Marine Power’s O2 floating platforms are each planned to be fitted with two of the four blades to be developed as part of MAXBlade.

The project plans to increase the area harnessed by Scottish tidal technology company Orbital Marine Power to generate power – known as the rotor swept area – by 70%, to more than 1,000 square metres.

The team expects to generate 120,000 hours of performance data that will be assessed by EMEC and project partner TECNALIA, a research and technological development centre.

Andrew Scott, CEO at Orbital Marine Power, said: “Orbital is delighted to be involved with so many great partners on this truly cutting-edge project. MAXBlade will help deliver tidal energy into a future, low-carbon energy mix at lower costs while, at the same time, position UK & European businesses to benefit from long-term industrial opportunities that will come from this new, sustainable industry.”

Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, head of the school and chair of Materials Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, added: “The University of Edinburgh is delighted to be a partner in the MAXBlade project, where we will demonstrate the unique rapid testing capability of the FastBlade facility. This will help the tidal energy industry to de-risk their ongoing turbine developments and provide low-cost, reliable renewable energy to the grid.”

“We will also lead the development of thermoplastic resins in MAXBlade and the circular economy roadmap needed for future tidal blade manufacturing and recycling.”  

The plan is to integrate innovations from MAXBlade with findings from its sister project, FORWARD2030, to enable large-scale production of Orbital’s O2 turbine technology.

This integration will open the way for the tidal energy sector to make significant contributions towards Europe’s energy systems, energy security and industrial development by 2030 and beyond to 2050, the team said.

The aim of the FORWARD2030 project is to develop a multi-vector energy system and further advance floating tidal energy technology.

In December 2022, as part of the FORWARD2030 project, Engie’s Laborelec placed the final order for a storage solution to Entech Smart Energies that will be tested offshore Scotland.

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