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A new tidal energy modelling tool developed by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and HR Wallingford can be used to find the most efficient sites for tidal energy converters, tidal arrays or tidal barrage schemes around the UK and French coastlines.

The computer program—SMARTtide (Simulated Marine Array Resource Testing)—incorporates a 2D hydrodynamic model of the UK’s continental shelf and the north-west European coastline. The software is available to the public from 21 May as a fee-for-service via a portal on HR Wallingford’s website.

The data that supports SMARTtide is the result of an earlier £450,000 project commissioned and funded by the ETI, which was led by Black & Veatch, in collaboration with HR Wallingford and the University of Edinburgh. That project improved the understanding of the possible interactions between tidal energy extraction systems as they are deployed between now and 2050.

The modelling tool calculates how energy extraction at one site may affect the energy available elsewhere. It also identifies how interactions between different sites around the UK combine to form an overall effect and critically considers what constraints these interactions will place on the design, development and location of future energy systems. The service allows modelers to create their own input specifications for a site and then the model is run on their behalf without the need for investment in expensive computers, bespoke model design costs and bathymetry (detail of water depth and seabed topography taken by detailed survey) data licence costs.

Simon Cheeseman, ETI Programme Manager for Marine technology, said:

It is important for tidal developers, investors and consenting authorities to understand the potential energy resource at a particular site and possible interactions. For a developer at the pre-feasibility stage, the software helps de-risk site selection, estimate energy extraction and inform selection for seabed survey. The development of this tool allows those in the development process to characterize the UK’s tidal energy resource, and evaluate the combined effects of energy extraction from potential sites without having the enormous investment in bespoke software models, hardware and licence costs.

This software provides the most comprehensive regional description of potential marine energy resources in UK waters. It complements the device and array design tools now emerging on to the market from the ETI’s PerAWAT project. Our hope is that as an inexpensive and easily accessible tool it will help guide policy and planning decisions for future site leasing rounds and standardize the site selection process.

David Krohn, Wave and Tidal Development Manager at Renewable UK, commented:

This initiative is a welcome intervention to help marine energy developers with siting in order that the UK maximises its huge potential for tidal energy development. HR Wallingford’s expertise in this area is renowned and it is heartening that the ETI has supported the generation of knowledge that helps the industry to target the most exploitable resources.

Mark Liddiard, Business Manager for Energy at HR Wallingford added:

SMARTtide is 100 times more detailed than the current data set available, making it the most highly detailed 2D hydrodynamic model available to the public for tidal energy extraction modelling, site selection and feasibility optimisation. SMARTtide is a dynamic, credible and robust model for tidal energy array testing and has been independently verified by Black & Veatch and the universities of Oxford, Liverpool and Edinburgh.

The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is a public-private partnership between global industries—BP, Caterpillar, EDF, E.ON, Rolls-Royce and Shell—and the UK Government. Public sector representation is through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with funding channeled through the Technology Strategy Board and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The Department of Energy and Climate Change are observers on the Board.

HR Wallingford is an independent engineering and environmental hydraulics organisation. We deliver practical solutions to complex water-related challenges faced by our international clients. A dynamic research program underpins all that we do and keeps us at the leading edge. Our unique mix of know-how, assets and facilities includes state of the art physical modelling laboratories, a full range of numerical modelling tools and, above all, enthusiastic people with world-renowned skills and expertise.