May 12, 2015

Flow Modification in a Tidal Farm and Potential Effects on Marine Habitats

Dan Potter – Lancaster University


  • Andrew Folkard
  • Suzana Ilic
  • David Evans
  • Stephen Quayle


The project aims to investigate the interaction of tidal stream turbine farms used for electricity generation with the surrounding marine environment. The change in behaviour of the ambient flow and the impact of these changes on the wider marine environment will be studied. Understanding the way that tidal flows are modified by the extraction of energy by tidal stream turbines is important both for the understanding the extractable resource as well as some of the potential impacts of the extraction of energy. Poorly understood environmental impacts have been identified as one of the main barriers to the development of the tidal energy industry and so this project aims to address this knowledge gap.


The study will primarily make use of numerical simulations rather than physical experiments, utilising the FVCOM (Finite-Volume, primitive equation Community Ocean Model) modelling system developed at the Marine Ecosystem Dynamics Modelling Laboratory at the School of Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Using an unstructured grid the model will produce a more accurate representation of a coastline, whilst achieving improved computational efficiency through the finite volume method . The model will incorporate actuator disk theory, representing the turbine blade as a porous disk, a technique borrowed from the wind energy sector. The impact of the energy extraction on tidal currents and amplitudes will be investigated and the knock on effects of these changes on circulation, sediment dynamics and morphodynamics.

Why This Subject Matters to Them

“Primarily I find this subject hugely interesting. I also believe that it is incredibly important for the environment and energy security that the renewable energy industry continues to expand and an important part of this expansion will be the exploitation of the marine renewable resource. I also feel that the development of marine energy in the UK can have an economic benefit back home in Wales.”