Grant to harness tidal energy

04 November 2010

Two of the Oxford Martin School’s Institute Directors have received a grant to develop a second generation tidal turbine.

Professor Guy Houlsby from our Programme on Globalising Tidal Power Generation and Dr Malcolm McCulloch from our Institute for Carbon and Energy Reduction in Transport are part of a research team to have been awarded £50,000 by the Oxford University Challenge Fund. A new company, Kepler Energy Limited, has been formed to develop the tidal turbine, which has the potential to harness tidal energy more efficiently and cheaply, using a device which is simpler, more robust and more scalable than current designs.

This new company will test and develop a horizontal axis water turbine intended to intersect the largest possible area of current. The rotor is cylindrical and rolls around its axis, thereby catching the current.

This initial funding will be used to build a 0.5 metre diameter prototype of the turbine to demonstrate the benefits of the design. A full-scale device would measure up to 10 metres in diameter, and a series of turbines can be chained together across a tidal channel.

UK waters are estimated to offer 10 per cent of the global extractable tidal resource. Tidal currents are sub-surface, so tidal turbines have minimum visual impact, unlike wind farms or estuary barrage schemes.