Modeling the Ocean Tide for Tidal Power Generation Applications

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 3:25 PM
Mitsuhiro Kawase and Marisa Gedney, Univ Washington, Seattle, WA, United States
Recent years have seen renewed interest in the ocean tide as a source of energy for electrical power generation. Unlike in the 1960s, when the tidal barrage was the predominant method of power extraction considered and implemented, the current methodology favors operation of a free-stream turbine or an array of them in strong tidal currents. As tidal power generation moves from pilot-scale projects to actual array implementations, numerical modeling of tidal currents is expected to play an increasing role in site selection, resource assessment, array design, and environmental impact assessment. In this presentation, a simple, coupled ocean/estuary model designed for research into fundamental aspects of tidal power generation is described. The model consists of a Pacific Ocean-size rectangular basin and a connected fjord-like embayment with dimensions similar to that of Puget Sound, Washington, one of the potential power generation sites in the United States. The model is forced by an idealized lunar tide-generating potential. The study focuses on the energetics of a tidal system including tidal power extraction at both global and regional scales. The hyperbolic nature of the governing shallow water equations means consequence of tidal power extraction cannot be limited to the local waters, but is global in extent. Modeling power extraction with a regional model with standard boundary conditions introduces uncertainties of 3 ~ 25% in the power extraction estimate depending on the level of extraction. Power extraction in the model has a well-defined maximum (~800 MW in a standard case) that is in agreement with previous theoretical studies. Natural energy dissipation and tidal power extraction strongly interact; for a turbine array of a given capacity, the higher the level of natural dissipation the lower the power the array can extract. Conversely, power extraction leads to a decrease in the level of natural dissipation (Figure) as well as the tidal range and the current speed. In the standard case considered, at the maximum power extraction the tidal range in the estuary is reduced by 37% and the natural dissipation by 78% from the unperturbed state. Thus, environmental consequences of power generation are likely to become the limiting factor on the scale of resource development before the physical maximum is reached.