A Team of Oxford University engineers has unveiled an incredible innovation in tidal turbine technology that could bring cheap, efficient energy to the shores of every major city.
There is an enormous amount of power that is present in tidal flows around the World but until now the implementation of tidal power systems has been difficult because of the engineering challenge that such systems involve.
There are only a handful of underwater turbines operating today and they usually take the form of underwater windmills. The Oxford team's system is much different because it is built using a cylindrical rotor which spins around in a more efficient motion and is able to capture about twice the energy of conventional tidal turbines.
The Transverse Horizontal Axis Water Turbine (Thawt) rotor that they envision is extremely large at 30 feet in diameter and 180 feet long. At that size the device can produce around 12MW of power.
"To do that, you only need three foundations and one generator," said Martin Oldfield, senior research fellow of engineering science at Oxford University. "To do that with a [windmill] would require five foundations and 10 generators."
The Twawt Turbine is far less complicated than a standard tidal turbine, with manufacturing costs being 60% less, and maintenance should be significantly less as well.
The researchers are planning on building and testing a 50% scale,15 feet diameter device in 2009. If all goes well they plan to build a large grid connected farm of turbines that could generate energy in the gigawatt range.