Friday, April 12, 2024

World’s most powerful tidal turbine prepares for first dip into US waters

Orbital Marine, a renewable energy company focused on deploying its pioneering floating tidal turbine, has been confirmed as the technology partner for Orcas Power & Light Cooperative’s (OPALCO) proposed site off Blakely Island in Rosario Strait, Washington State.

The latest update between Orbital and OPALCO comes after the US Department of Energy (DOE) shortlisted two marine energy projects to receive $6 million for the development of a tidal energy research, development, and demonstration pilot site. At the end of the Phase 1 term, one of the two organizations will be funded to move forward with the development of a full project. This is a positive step towards sustainable energy development.

OPALCO was one of the two firms the Water Power Technologies Office selected under DOE to explore tidal energy development in the US. The team will work with stakeholders, conduct technical feasibility studies, and start preliminary permitting procedures over the next ten months.

If it is the organization chosen at the end of the ten-month process, OPALCO is considering deploying an Orbital O2 floating tidal energy turbine in Rosario Strait in the San Juan Islands to provide a local power supply. OPALCO has already completed the grant-funded preliminary study, which included environmental impact assessments, interactions with regulatory bodies and tribes, and tidal flow studies.

“It’s positive to see OPALCO reaching this stage in an important funding process and for their proposals to be firmly based on the deployment of Orbital technology,” said Andrew Scott, CEO of Orbital Marine Power. “Whilst there is still substantial work to be done before we float our technology in US waters, this milestone underlines growing global appetite for the pioneering progress we are demonstrating in the floating tidal stream space.”

Foster Hildreth, Managing Director of OPALCO, said: “There are no single or simple solutions for figuring out the complexities of our future energy supply in a decarbonized world. OPALCO is exploring all possible technologies to build reliable, sustainable, and carbon-free resources to meet the energy needs of San Juan County. Floating tidal stream energy, as delivered by the Orbital O2, is one of those technologies that could make sense for our islanded territory.”

Orbital already operates the O2 tidal turbine, which can generate a substantial amount of power and help supply electricity to thousands of households in the UK. A single O2 unit equipped with two turbines can generate almost 2 megawatts of power and provide electricity to more than 2,000 UK households annually.

The entire steel rig of an O2 tidal turbine is constructed using techniques that help reduce costs and make the turbine more adaptable to mass production. Additionally, its design enables the draft of the unit to be lowered to less than 9.8 feet (3 meters), making it easier to transport and install with reasonably sized workboats.

In addition, the turbine has been designed with retractable legs that resemble “gull wings” to facilitate maintenance and repair. These legs have been specially constructed to lift the nacelles, pitch hubs, and blades out of the water, making it easier to fix any issues that may arise.

Each turbine can rotate 360 degrees and has a rotor diameter of 64 feet (20 meters), which is the largest combined rotor area on a single tidal-producing platform to date, measuring 600 m2 (1.969 square feet). This unique feature enables the turbine to produce power without changing direction when the tides change completely. Moreover, it allows the rotors to be adjusted dynamically and safely to gather power from different tidal directions without yawing the entire platform.