Underwater Kites: A New Way to Harness Tidal Energy
Underwater kites could generate 500kW of electricity! An underwater kite aimed at generating electricity from tidal currents has received €2m of private funding to further its development. Designed by Saab spin-out, Minesto, the system claims to be able to increase the potential energy generated from the global tidal market by up to 80 per cent. ‘The initial concept came from an idea to use kites to harness wind energy,’ explained Ted Rosendahl, chief technology officer at Minesto. ‘But as water is denser than air, we soon realised that using this system in the ocean could be far more effective.’ The kite, known as Deep Green, consists of a 12m wing, turbine, generator and rudder. Tethered 100m above the sea bed, it flies in a figure eight using
the kinetic energy from the waves combined with an automatic steering system.Minesto develops a new concept for tidal power plants based on underwater kites. While a full-scale model is yet to be developed, each unit is expected to be able to generate up to 500kW of electricity which will be transmitted onshore from the generators through a power cable inside the tether. Rosendahl said: ‘We still have some big challenges to overcome. You have dolphins and sharks in the same environment and we don’t know very much about how they will react when the see the things floating around. So testing in an ocean environment is the next step.’ The €2m of funding will be used to test a quarter scale Deep Green prototype off the coast of Northern Ireland next year. If trials are successful, Rosendahl hopes that the technology will be available on a full-scale within the next five years. ~ Minesto develops a new concept for tidal power plants called Deep Green. Deep Green is based on a fundamentally new principle for electricity generation from tidal currents. The power plant is applicable in areas where no other known technology can operate cost effectively due to its unique ability to operate in low velocities.
Minesto expands the total marine energy potential and offers a step change in cost for tidal energy. The principle of the technology can be explained as a two stage process. The first stage increases the relative flow speed entering a turbine. When the tide hits the wing it creates a lift force, since the kite is mounted to the ocean bed with a tether and is controlled by a rudder, the kite can be taken in the desired trajectory, here in an eight formed path. The method increases the flow velocity into the turbine by 10 times, compared to the actual stream velocity. The second stage uses a generator to convert kinetic energy into electrical power. The net result is increased power from a smaller package. The planned normal full size weighs only 7 tons excluding anchoring which gives an energetic payback time of 3 weeks, compared to 8 months for onshore wind. The test confirms power production of the plant at Marin in Holland. Technology. Deep Green has the unique capability to increase current market potential with 80 %. The Deep Green technology converts energy from tidal stream flows into electricity by way of a novel principle, somewhat similar to the posture of a wind kite. The kite assembly, consisting of a wing and turbine, is attached by a tether to a fixed point on the ocean bed. The technology offered by Minesto is lightweight and miniature compared to other tidal solutions. Resulting in cost savings in material, transport, installation, service and maintenance place Minesto in a unique position, both economically and in terms of number of available sites. Deep Green can operate cost efficiently at sites with low current velocities and large depths, therefore able to significantly expand total size of the global market for marine energy. Studies indicate that Minesto’s
technology is the only one that can utilize 40 percent of the high-potential areas in a cost-efficient manner. Company; Business concept encompasses sales and development of cost-effective power plants that utilize ocean and tidal streams to generate electricity. Minesto is a spin-off of the Saab Group. Development of the Deep Green technology for a new type of tidal power plant started within the Saab Group in 2003. After four years of technological and commercial evaluation, Minesto was formed in 2007 and is devoted to continuing the journey towards commercialization. The Minesto team is backed by several prominent industrial R&D adherents such as Saab, Midroc New Technology, Verdane Capital and Chalmers University of Technology that also assist with complementary industry expertise. The acceptance into the Marine Energy Accelerator program by The Carbon Trust 2007, confirms Minesto’s potential to offer a step change in cost for tidal power. Offices are located in Gothenburg, Sweden (headquarters), Belfast and London. Sources: theengineer.co.uk - minesto.com
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