The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

May/Jun 2017


Teaming up for cheaper energy from ocean tides

Oceanographers are launching a major project to study tidal turbulence at the Menai Strait in North Wales. Just how can this project help reduce development costs, leading to cheaper energy from the tides?

Oceanographers at Bangor University will focus on the collection of novel turbulence data in the Menai Strait, using Nortek's Doppler technology. Photo: David Roberts

Ocean energy represents a vast and largely untapped renewable energy resource. The global market for marine energy has been estimated to be worth around £76 billion between 2016 and 2050, according to numbers previously released by the UK’s Carbon Trust.

To access this source of energy, oceanographers at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences in Wales have been awarded two major grants totalling £230,000 to study ocean turbulence. The aim is to help improve the design and operation of tidal energy capture devices.

The new project links the Bangor team with oceanographic instrument maker Nortek, Norway, and marine renewable energy survey company Partrac, UK. This team of specialists has set out to greatly improve the assessment of risks associated with turbulence and so help reduce development costs, leading to cheaper energy from the tides.


“The shallow seas around the UK represent one of the best tidal energy resources globally, accounting for some 10 per cent of the global total. In consequence, the tidal energy industry is an emerging and steadily growing sector of the UK economy,” says Dr Martin Austin from Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences.

Physical oceanographers at Bangor University are recognised as world leaders in ocean turbulence research.

The findings from this project will be integrated into Nortek’s product development. However, this is certainly not the first tidal energy project for the acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) specialist.

“Nortek has been there to help the tidal energy industry since the start. The first installation with Norwegian renewable energy company Hammerfest Strøm was operational more than 10 years ago,” says Atle Lohrmann, chief executive officer and founder of Nortek.

During the years since, the need to understand how tidal turbines could withstand very strong currents required Nortek to develop new measurement capabilities.


“We participate in all phases of tidal energy projects. This includes the science of understanding the current and wave climate, resource assessment at a specific location, and also monitoring the currents during production,” Lohrmann says.

The tidal turbulence project will be executed as two related projects supported by grants from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS2).


The first project will focus on the collection of novel turbulence data in the Menai Strait, and also further offshore to the northwest of Anglesey. This effort will further develop the world-leading expertise in acoustic and optical observation techniques pioneered at Bangor University.

The second project will focus on advancing the measurement of turbulence in energetic tidal flows, with researchers also working in the natural laboratory of the Menai Strait.

  • With Nortek's AWAC, the oceanographers can measure the current speed and direction in one-metre thick layers from the bottom to the surface





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