A tidal turbine in Queensland pumping electricity into the grid is moving Australia closer to becoming a global leader in ocean energy and providing power to homes and industry.
Tidal flow predictability is helping researchers find the potential in the ocean and tidal areas for power generation. The technology is already gaining interest from the Gladstone Ports Commission, which will be installing multiple tiodal turbines.
Researchers say that the tidal turbine technology could be the perfect solution to supplyiong power to remote communities, as free-flowing waters allow the turbines to convert kinetic energy into renewable power.
After dwecades of research into trying to harness the tidal energy, the first commercial ready turbines will be installed at the Gladstone Port to send power to the city’s local grid.
Sydney-based MAKO Tidal Turbines installed the turbines, and raised the point of the vast numbers of piers and pylons along the Australian coast that could easily house pairs of turbines. The key points brought to attention about the tidal turbine energy, is that battery storage is only relied on for roughly 4-6 hours in between tidal flows.
Gladstone Ports CEO Peter O’Sullivan said they had a tidal range of up to 5 metres.
“It’s basically a bit like a propeller, so it’s about 2 metres in diameter and as the tide moves through the port it turns the propeller just like other turbines, where steam turns them or water turns them in hydro, so that produces electricity,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
The power is then transferred through a cable to either to local energy providers via substations or the Barney Point coal terminal which is then distributed into the local grid.
“We hope that this may be the start of a long-term partnership, so we can continue to grow the number of turbines and look at investing in how this technology may advantage us but also the rest of Queensland as well,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“We know exactly what velocity of water is going to be moving through the port and that means we know how much electricity is going to be produced.
“So unlike some other renewables, where the clouds may come over and interrupt solar or the wind may drop off, every day of the year we can predict exactly how much power this type of renewable energy produces, and that allows a lot of planning, to integrate with other power sources as it can get a full range of dispatchable power.”
The current 2-metre trial turbine generates enough power to run one household per day, and can be attached to existing infrastructure for a low cost.
1 megawatt turbines can power 600 to 800 homes and as an industry, add about 3.2 gigawatts into the renewable energy mix.
Ambitions for the turbines go beyond ports and marinas, with researchers looking at remote coastal locations with power issues.
In Australia where we have a lot of islands that are running on offshore diesel, and to see some of those resources being replaced by renewables, and the tidal resource is one of those predictable resources we should be exploiting more in this country.
PHOTO: As water is much denser than air, tidal turbines are much smaller than wind turbines. (Supplied: Mako)