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The Leading Edge

Georgia Tech studying tidal currents in the U.S.

Scientists at Georgia Tech Research Corp. are using an ocean circulation numerical model to predict tidal currents in the U.S. and to compute power densities. Georgia Tech Research is a non-profit corporation that works on behalf of all academic departments and serves as the contracting agency for sponsored research projects performed by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The model, called ROMS (Regional Ocean Modeling System), is a free-surface, terrain-following, primitive equations ocean model widely used by the scientific community, says Dr. Kevin A. Haas, assistant professor at Georgia Tech. ROMS is a freely available open-source code, he says.

The lack of a full spatial-temporal assessment of tidal currents down to the scale of individual devices is a barrier to the comprehensive development of tidal current energy, Haas says. This project will provide a full spatial and temporal assessment of U.S. tidal streams, he says. This assessment will advance knowledge and understanding of tidal streams and provide a geographic information systevm (GIS) tool that can be used by industry to accelerate the market for tidal energy conversion technology, Haas says.

When this assessment is complete, tidal energy developers and electric utilities will have the tidal energy potential estimates necessary for feasibility and planning studies, he says. And device manufacturers will be able to design energy converters with dimensions and performance curves tailored for optimum exploitation of the tidal current resource, Haas says.

Work on this project began in December 2008 and is expected to be complete in September 2010.

This work is being funded through a $469,500 award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Center being established to support marine development

Personnel at Oregon State University and the University of Washington are working to establish the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC). This center is being funded through an award of $1.25 million annually for up to five years from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The center will:

— Provide an integrated, standardized test center for developers of wave and tidal energy;

— Evaluate potential effects on the environment and ecosystems, focusing on the compatibility of marine energy technologies in areas with sensitive environments and existing users;

— Optimize devices and arrays for effective deployment of wave and tidal energy technologies;

— Improve forecasting of the wave energy resource off the west coast of the U.S.; and

— Increase reliability and survivability of marine energy systems.

Researchers at the center will develop “mobile” test berths for full-scale wave device testing; develop “mobile” instrumentation packages for device and environmental monitoring; and use numerical models of devices operating in coastal and estuarine environments to evaluate effects on the environment and ecosystems.

Key findings and results of the research programs are to be disseminated through workshops, conferences, publications, and a website, says Robert Paasch, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. Paasch is project director and principal investigator for the NNMREC.

The center is being funded through a DOE grant of $1.25 million a year, renewable for up to five years. These funds will be combined with $3 million in capital funding from the Oregon legislature, $250,000 from the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, and money from Oregon State University and the University of Washington. Total funding for the NW Center will be $13.5 million over five years.

U.S. and Chile to cooperate on renewables, including ocean

Energy officials of the U.S. and Chile are cooperating to advance non-conventional renewable energy including ocean energy.

In June 2009, Chile Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman and U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman signed an agreement. Under this agreement, the two countries will cooperate on high-priority energy issues, such as energy efficiency technologies and developing renewable energy sources including ocean.

The agreement also makes Chile’s new Renewable Energy Center eligible for U.S. Department of Energy technical support.

Tokman outlined the proposed Centro de Energias Renovables in 2008, saying Chilean President Michelle Bachelet plans to extend the center to include to the union of South American nations, Union de Naciones Suramericanas, during her acting presidency of the organization.

Acting as a “technological antenna,” the Chilean center is to identify developments in clean technologies and best practices in renewable energies from around the world.

Florida center deploys current profilers in Atlantic Ocean

Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Ocean Energy Technology is using four acoustic Doppler current profilers in the Atlantic Ocean to gather baseline information on the Gulf Stream.

These profilers, supplied by RDI Teledyne, were deployed in April 2009 on four moorings off the east coast of Florida, says Susan Skemp, executive director of the center. The moorings are 7.8 to 35.9 kilometers from Dania Beach, Fla., at depths of 725 to 2,116 feet. The profilers use high-frequency, low-power sonar to measure water velocity throughout the water column at single locations every 30 minutes. The profilers are intended to remain deployed for up to eight months, Skemp says.

Researchers at the university will use data from the profilers to establish a baseline of information on the Gulf Stream, Skemp says. This information is needed to characterize the spatial and temporal variability of the Gulf Stream, which is the most energy dense ocean current.

Deployment of the profilers is the first phase in the center’s plans to create a National Open-Ocean Energy Laboratory. The lab will involve permanent infrastructure offshore of south Florida to serve as a testing and research range for marine and hydrokinetic devices.

The center was established in 2006 to research, design, develop, implement, test, and enable commercialization of ocean energy technologies that are cost-competitive with existing power technologies.

Acoustic Doppler current profiles (orange balls in photo) deployed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida are gathering baseline information on the Gulf Stream. This data will be used to characterize the spatial and temporal variability of the Gulf Stream.

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