UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Limitations on tidal-in-stream power generation in a strait Atwater, Joel


In the quest to reduce the release of carbon dioxide to limit the effects of global climate change, tidal-in-stream energy is being investigated as one of many possible sustainable means of generating electricity. In this scheme, turbines are placed in a tidal flow and kinetic energy is extracted. With the goal of producing maximum power, there is an ideal amount of resistance these turbines should provide; too little resistance will not a develop a sufficient pressure differential, while too much resistance will choke the flow. Tidal flow in a strait is driven by the difference in sea-level along the channel and is impeded by friction; the interplay between the driving and resistive forces determines the flow rate and thus the extractible power. The use of kinetic energy flux, previously employed as a metric for extractible power, is found to be unreliable as it does not account for the increased resistance the turbines provide in retarding the flow. The limits on extraction from a channel are dependant on the relationship between head loss and velocity. If head loss increases with the square of the velocity, a maximum of 38% of the total fluid power may be extracted; this maximum decreases to 25\% if head loss increases linearly with velocity. Using these values, the estimated power potential of BC's Inside Passage is 477MW, 13% of previous assessments. If a flow has the ability to divert through a parallel channel around the installed turbines, there are further limits on production. The magnitude of this diversion is a function of the relative resistance of impeded and diversion channels. As power extraction increases, the flow will slow from its natural rate. This reduction in velocity precipitously decreases the power density the flow, requiring additional turbine area per unit of power. As such, the infrastructure costs per watt may rise five to eight times as additional turbines are installed. This places significant economic limitations on utility-scale tidal energy production.

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