Scots present new low-cost blade as ‘step change’ for tidal energy

The design engineers from the University of Edinburgh, together with Tocardo Turbines, have manufactured a new tidal turbine blade which could lead to the reduction of the levelized cost of tidal energy.

Image credit: University of Edinburgh/Neil Hanna

The blade was manufactured in Scotland for the first time and more cheaply than before, with the new structure that reduces the amount of materials, bringing down the weight, volume, and cost of manufacturing.

Eddie McCarthy, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering and leader of FastBlde, the world’s first rapid testing facility for tidal turbine blades at Rosyth in Fife, said that the project represents the step change in the group’s capacity to manufacture tidal blades at reasonable size scale at a reasonable speed.

“We began the project in October 2022. We have found a faster, cheaper route to manufacture than the usual tidal blade fabrication process, based on an altered design – we hope the combination of improved design and optimized manufacturing process will contribute to reducing the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) of tidal stream energy, with the long term goal of matching LCOE of offshore wind,” McCarthy explained.

Currently, the UK contract price for tidal stream energy is around £178 per MWh, compared to £65 for offshore wind, and the high generation cost is said to be a barrier to the development of tidal energy – potentially the missing piece of a year-round, renewable energy grid.

Lead design engineer Dilum Fernando said: “This is the first time this type of structure has been used in blade manufacturing. Its monolithic structure eliminates the weaker adhesive joints found in conventional rotor blades, which will make it more resilient to tidal stream conditions.”

The blade was manufactured for tidal energy technology company QED Naval as part of the European Tidal Stream Industry Energiser Project known as TIGER, in a service agreement brokered by Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh’s commercialization service.

Jeremy Smith, Managing Director of QED Naval, commented: “We are delighted to be working with the University of Edinburgh on this next generation of tidal turbine blades, which will help bring down the cost of tidal installations. We have deliberately demonstrated the design tools, processes and build method on our smaller T1 blade design, using a 6.3m rotor diameter, but we will be pulling these through into our T3 blades up to 14m rotor diameter. This work, and its part in the EU Interreg TIGER Project helps showcase cost savings and the benefits of tidal energy.”

The four completed blades have been deployed in QED’s Subhub tidal platform, currently undergoing sea trials in Langstone Harbour on the south coast of England, and the University of Edinburgh team is looking for funding to carry out detailed testing of a fifth blade at FastBlade.

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