Tidal Energy Resource Assessment in Chacao Channel, Chile

Monday, 15 December 2014
Maricarmen Guerra1, Leandro Suarez2, Rodrigo Cienfuegos2 and James M Thomson3, (1)University of Washington Seattle Campus, Seattle, WA, United States, (2)Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering, Santiago, Chile, (3)Applied Physics Lab (UW), Seattle, WA, United States
The Chacao Channel, located in Los Lagos region in Chile (41º S; 73º W), is a highly energetic tidal channel, with a complex hydrodynamics resulting from the propagation of tidal waves through a narrow channel.

The channel flow exhibits bi-directional tidal currents up to 4 to 5 m/s along with a high tidal range up to 6 m in its east end (Aiken, 2008: Cáceres et al., 2003). The channel has previously been identified as one of the most attractive sites in Chile for tidal energy extraction (Garrad Hassan and Partners, 2009); however this statement is based on global model predictions over coarse bathymetric information.

In this investigation, the first hydrodynamic characterization of the Chacao channel is carried out in order to assess the hydrokinetic power available and to select the most interesting spots where the first tidal energy extraction devices might be installed in Chile.

The Chacao channel hydrodynamic characterization and resource assessment is carried out in two stages: field measurements and numerical hydrodynamic modeling. The first stage involves a 10 m resolution multi-beam bathymetry of the channel, sea-level measurements using 6 tidal gauges distributed over the channel berms, tidal current measurements with 6 ADCPs distributed along the channel, and detailed measurements of turbulence in a specific spot in the channel using the Tidal Turbulence Mooring (TTM) developed by Thomson et al. (2013).

In a second stage, numerical hydrodynamic modeling using FVCOM (Chen et al., 2003) was prepared for the entire Chacao channel region, using the field data collected in the first stage for calibration and validation of the model.

The obtained results allow us to define suitable sites for marine energy extraction, finding large areas with 30 to 60 m depths where horizontal currents are above 1.5 m/s during 60% of the time of a 28 days tidal cycle, however the high levels of turbulence detected by the TTM indicate the need for more detailed studies on the interesting sites, in order to meet the hydrodynamic aspects related to infrastructure design and the definition of device location and distribution in the flow.

This work has been supported by Conicyt/Fondef Project D09i1052 and the Office of Naval Research Global.