Photo: Sustainable Marine's 420kW PLAT-I 6.40 floating tidal energy platform (Courtesy of Sustainable Marine Energy)

Sustainable Marine, German partners to advance tidal turbine blades

UK-based marine energy company Sustainable Marine Energy is adopting cutting-edge aerospace and wind energy technology in a new project set to drive the evolution of tidal turbine blades.

Photo showing Sustainable Marine's 420kW PLAT-I 6.40 floating tidal energy platform (Courtesy of Sustainable Marine Energy)
Sustainable Marine’s 420kW PLAT-I 6.40 floating tidal energy platform (Courtesy of Sustainable Marine Energy)

Sustainable Marine is leading the EvoFoil project in partnership with German organisations M&D Composites Technology, and Leibniz Universität Hannover Institute of Production Engineering and Machine Tools.

The EvoFoil project aims to deliver a series of design innovations to optimise the performance of tidal turbine foils or blades, while driving down production and operation costs.

Sustainable Marine will benefit from the advisory services and up to $578,000 in research and development funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) for the two-year project.

Additionally, the German partners on this project are receiving funding support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) through the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM).

Ralf Starzmann, head of power systems at Sustainable Marine, said: “The project will address key areas of the foil design including the tip geometry and the overall composition involving a new ‘multi-material’ concept. It will enable us to deliver an extensive field and lab testing campaign combining decades of knowledge and experience from across sectors to take our tidal foil technology to the next level”.

“We believe there are several key interventions which can be made to further optimize our foil performance and help drive evolution in the tidal energy market more broadly. These design factors will play an important role addressing areas such as energy extraction, power curve deterioration and operating and maintenance costs”.

Tidal turbine blade innovations in EvoFoil

Earlier in 2021, Sustainable Marine launched its new 420kW PLAT-I 6.40 floating tidal energy platform in the Bay of Fundy in Canada which will form part of the larger floating tidal energy array.

The device is currently undergoing commissioning and testing in Grand Passage before its deployed to Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) in Nova Scotia.

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The site experiences some of the most extreme tidal ranges in the world – with 115 billion tonnes of water surging in and an out, twice a day – creating a resource from which circa 7GW of power could be extracted.

Tim Markwald, M&D Composites Technology’s managing director, said: “While offering tremendous natural power, the Bay of Fundy also places a range of environmental conditions on the tidal turbine foils including thermal changes, corrosion and abrasion, adding to hydrodynamic loads during operation.

“Our mission with the EvoFoil project is to drive innovation to work in harmony with these immense natural forces. This will involve the use of innovative manufacturing methodologies in order to reduce manufacturing costs. In addition, we are exploring different surface treatments to protect against erosion given the harsh environment of the Bay of Fundy”.

Carsten Schmidt, from the Leibniz Universität Hannover, added: “We are currently researching a new material concept to improve the mechanical behaviour of the foil and help counteract the various loads. This ‘multi-layer’ concept is being influenced by studies on the current foil structure made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic and the scientific findings of the German Research Foundation ‘Multilayer-Insert’ project.

“The innovation will enable the load carrying areas of the foil to be partially reinforced with thin metallic sheets, improving adaption to the turbine drive shaft boosting durability and strength. More intense work is now required to manage the increase in scale and geometrical complexity of the metallic inserts to accomplish a proper load transfer from the foils root to the turbine hub”.

The news comes as German and Canadian governments recently stepped-up efforts to explore the joint development of green hydrogen from Canadian renewables for export to Germany.