SURFTEC: SUrvivability and Reliability of Floating Tidal Energy Converters

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of Engineering


Identifying and understanding extreme and fatigue loads on tidal energy converters (TEC), understanding environmental extremes (other than main resource), and determining accessibility, serviceability criteria, fault intervals and associated device life cycles, are all important factors that can determine CAPEX and OPEX cost of devices and array deployments. This project will provide a holistic vision for design optimisation to ensure, reliability and survivability for floating TECs (FTECs). Computational modeling and real sea deployment measurements will provide a tool to inform the optimum operational strategy and maximise survivability and reliability for FTEC devices and arrays.

Swansea University will develop a versatile BEMT code to enable the study of FTECs numerically at a fundamental level and physically by working closely with project partners Oceanflow Energy, EMEC and Black and Veatch to determine the most important parameters to be measured for this type of technologies. Measurements taken at the Sanda Sound deployment site for the Oceanflow Energy 1:4 scale EVOPOD prototype, including loads on the device and sea condition datasets, will be used to validate the BEMT model for FTECs. A generic BEMT FTEC model will then be tested using environmental data, including extremes, provided by EMEC. In collaboration with Black and Veatch the resulting load predictions will be used to estimate component fatigue and failure. This will lead to the development of an operational strategy and design guidance to maximise survivability and reliability of FTECs.

Planned Impact

This partnership of university, industry and test site will develop fundamental understanding of the regular and irregular loadings on Floating Tidal Energy Converter (FTEC) devices and will help design engineers to maximise the operational window safely and ensure the device reliability and survivability at sea.

Multiple beneficiaries include the UK, academia, device companies, prototype testing centres, energy companies, consultants and policy makers and regulators will benefit from the outputs of this research. The wider Marine Renewable Energy sector will benefit by the prior avoidance of failure and associated reputational risk.

Immediate impact:
The industrial partners in the project will benefit from improved design understanding and this will immediately be transferred into improved FTEC designs. B&V will be able to work with a wide range of developers, reducing uncertainty and cost of energy. EMEC will be able to understand the engineering loads exerted on devices on their test sites.

This project is proposing a significant, industry relevant and highly accessible pathway to impact through the provision of a software package for the analysis of floating tidal stream turbines. Source code will be provided free of charge to the academic community on a non-commercial basis. Commercial licences for the software will be available for all floating developers world wide.
Wider areas of impact:

UK: Targeted investment in low carbon marine energy technology provides a great opportunity to deliver industry growth benefits to remote coastal communities. Investment in this emerging sector will help UK companies to become strong economic contributors to UK's growth providing jobs and exports of IP based technology and services.It will help secure future energy needs, decarbonising the UK economy and enabling Government to meet CO2 obligations. Commercial scale deployment of FTEC devices will have significant beneficial impact on the UK, stimulating its manufacturing sector. Tackling the uncertainties associated with design, manufacture, operation and maintenance will benefit the entire marine energy supply chain and the UK will therefore be better placed to become a global force. The UK structural engineering sector will also be a beneficiary as the existing, yet underutilised, manufacturing facilities and expertise can be applied to building FTEC device structures.

Academia: Where data gathered in the project is free of commercial sensitivity, it will also be shared with the academic community for application to research related to other significant projects in the marine and maritime sectors. Importantly, the research assistant and PhD student will be upskilled through formal training, conference visits and in collaborating with industry.
FTEC device designers, O&M companies: The UK leads the world with the development and deployment of marine energy devices. This project will make significant contributions to accelerate the deployment of FTEC arrays. The timescale benefits during installation and O&M will reduce overall Costs of Energy (CoE) and enable developers to reduce risk and inspire investor confidence. The industrial collaborators, Oceanflow Energy, EMEC and Black and Veatch will ensure the findings of this project are put into practice at the first opportunity.

Energy companies, consultants, policy makers and regulators, prototype testing centres: The deployment of FTEC arrays will lead to market growth and capture a considerable share both in the UK and internationally. The overall reduced CoE of the EVOPOD design especially with regard to reliability and survivability will promote a product which is attractive for further investment. Policy makers and regulators will learn important lessons in identifying best practices with regards to operational envelops and will be in a better position to assess the technical, commercial and financial prospects of tidal stream technologies.
Description There are two key outcomes from this work. The first key outcome is the development of a methodology for tracking and recording the motion of a floating tidal energy converter. This has involved the design of a system that includes motion sensors, GPS tracking, and a data logger to store the information. The sensors and data logger have been tested on a full-scale prototype tidal energy converter in two deployment locations and have provided useful information to the prototype developer as well as demonstrating the capability of the sensor/data logger system. This work is now being extended in a further research project where the sensors will be used to evaluate and monitor a number of floating devices, enabling better understanding of device behaviour.

The second key outcome is the development of a low-order coupled model to predict the hydrodynamic behaviour of floating tidal energy converters. This has been validated against existing lab-scale experiments and data gathered during the deployment of the full-scale floating tidal energy converter within the project. The resulting model has shown that it is an efficient technique for modelling the motion of a floating tidal energy converter under the influence of tidal currents and waves. This enables floating tidal energy device developers to have access to an efficient and accurate computational model that can predict the motion of their device under a range of sea-state conditions, leading to improved device design.
Exploitation Route The sensor system designed within this project is now being extended with the aim of developing a robust motion tracking sensor for floating devices. The application for this could range from wave buoys to floating energy converters including wave, tidal and wind. The computational model developed with the project will enable floating tidal energy converter developers to predict the motion of their device under a range of tidal and wave climate conditions. This has the potential to be extended further to enable device developers to investigate the effect of the hydrodynamic loads on fatigue.
Sectors Energy,Environment

Description College of Engineering PhD studentship
Amount £56,244 (GBP)
Organisation Swansea University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2020
Description Royal Society Energy Event, Swansea 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This event was organised by the Royal Society as part of their "You and the planet" public series. Members of the public interacted with the research team who demonstrated how marine energy is generated, and also publicised the ongoing research. This was part of an exhibition prior to the formal discussion panel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019