Sustainable Marine’s tidal turbine rotors can survive for 20 years in the field

In addition to solar and wind energy, we’re now starting to see some exciting advances in tidal stream turbines that have become a preferable mode of harvesting tidal energy.

Sustainable Marine is adopting cutting-edge aerospace and wind energy technology in a new project to accelerate the development of tidal turbine blades. The startup is putting its “ultra-durable” carbon-fiber turbine rotor blades through their paces.

The Scottish tidal energy technology company has now announced that its new tidal turbine rotors have proven they can survive for two decades in the field, following rigorous tests at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), which houses a 375 Square meter Structures Research Laboratory.

The novel floating tidal energy system uses a common drive train and two different rotor diameters, measuring 6.3 meters and 4 meters, to suit requirements at different resource sites. After completing extensive testing on 6.3-meter rotors at NUI Galway, the company returned to the Irish facility to assess the performance of its smaller 4-meter rotors, designed specifically for stronger resource sites.

The laboratory carried out ‘accelerated lifetime testing,’ subjecting the tidal turbine rotors to conditions equivalent to 20 years of operation in the field in just a matter of weeks. It covered a broad range of parameters, including stress, strain, vibration, and its performance under fatigue loading. Further in-house testing carried out by its German engineering partner SCHOTTEL Hydro involved ultimate loading and testing the integrity of the blade until failure.

“Accelerated lifetime testing is an essential process which allows us to rapidly speed up normal conditions, to better understand how structures will react over time,” said Ralf Starzmann, Vice President of Business Development at Sustainable Marine. “Our new 4m rotor blade has proven to be ‘ultra-durable,’ providing full confidence in the design and structural integrity. Reliability is a key factor in tidal turbine development, particularly as we are now moving towards our first commercial projects.”

Earlier this year, it launched its new 420 kW PLAT-I 6.40 floating tidal energy platform, featuring the new 4 meters rotors, which are now undergoing commissioning and testing in Grand Passage. Its unique turbine design consists of a fixed-pitch rotor engineered from carbon fiber to flex and pitch in overload conditions. This ‘passive-adaptive’ quality helps reduce structural loads on the turbines so that smaller, more cost-effective components can be used.

The company says its floating turbine platform is the first of its kind in the world, with the main point of difference being that its turbines are mounted to individual modules that allow for easier assembly on-site, using small support vessels and no heavy machinery. The platform can be launched and towed in water just two meters deep, and the turbines are fixed to large arms that can be swung up out of the water for easy maintenance.

Sustainable Marine is currently preparing to deliver the world’s first floating tidal energy array in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia. The total in-stream tidal energy project will be able to generate up to 9MW of electricity to the Nova Scotia grid. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and power approximately 3000 homes each year.

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