Overcoming the supply inconsistencies of tidal current energy conversion devices
The adoption of a sustainable approach to meeting the energy needs of society has recently taken on a more central and urgent place in the minds of many people. There are many reasons for this including ecological, environmental and economic concerns. One particular area where a sustainable approach has become very relevant is in the production of electricity. The contribution of renewable sources to the energy mix supplying the electricity grid is nothing new, but the focus has begun to move away from the more conventional renewable sources such as wind and hydro. The necessity of exploring new and innovative sources of renewable energy is now seen as imperative as the older forms (i.e. hydro) reach the saturation point of their possible exploitation. One such innovative source of energy currently beginning to be utilised in this regard is tidal energy. The purpose of this thesis is to isolate one specific drawback to tidal energy, which could be considered a roadblock to this energy source being a major contributor to the Irish national grid. This drawback presents itself in the inconsistent nature in which a tidal device generates energy over the course of a 24 hour period. This inconsistency of supply can result in the cycling of conventional power plants in order to even out the supply, subsequently leading to additional costs. The thesis includes a review of literature relevant to the area of tidal and other marine energy sources with an emphasis on the state of the art devices currently in development or production. The research carried out included tidal data analysis and manipulation into a model of the power generating potential at specific sites. A solution is then proposed to the drawback of inconsistency of supply, which involves the positioning of various tidal generation installations at specifically selected locations around the Irish coast. The temporal shift achieved in the power supply profiles of the individual sites by locating the installations in the correct locations, successfully produced an overall power supply profile with the smoother curve and a consistent base load energy supply. Some limitations to the method employed were also outlined, and suggestions for further improvements to the method were made.
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