A Welsh company, Tidal Energy Limited, is about to begin testing a new 1MW tidal turbine off the coast of Wales. While studies have shown that tidal energy could provide up to 25% of the UK’s electricity needs, the sea environment has proven to be a tough one for long bladed underwater turbines. Tidal Energy Limited’s new DeltaStream turbine was designed in conjunction with Converteam, a company that designs propulsion systems for ships, such as the Queen Mary.
One DeltaStream unit consists of three propeller driven generators that sit in a triagular frame. It’s a lot lighter than most other tidal power systems, and instead of being anchored to the sea floor, it can just sit on the bottom of the sea. All of the electrical connectors are the same as those used on a ship to power propellers. Since the blades are much shorter, thicker, and slow moving compared to other tidal power systems, there’s minimal threat to marine life. In addition, the DeltaStream has a fail safe system to prevent too strong water currents from dragging the turbines across the sea bottom – the propellers automatically tilt their orientation to shed any extra energy caused by powerful currents.