Ocean Energy SNAIL Launched off the UK

The Robert Gordon University’s ocean energy device, the “Sea Snail”, was successfully installed in Burra Sound, Orkney. The Snail, which was designed as a support system for tidal current energy devices, was towed out from Stromness Harbor earlier this month.

The Project leader, Alan Owen, reported that the device was securely sited on the sea bed at 6:30pm, exactly on schedule. The Snail, through its use of reversible hydrofoils to produce down force, is intended to tackle what many believe to be the biggest technical obstacle to the economic development of tidal current power: the difficulty of attaching energy extraction devices in energetic flows, where the sea bed does not allow conventional anchorage. “Alan has made a huge breakthrough for the economic development of tidal current power,” said Professor Ian Bryden, who originally conceived of the Snail concept. “Use of the Snail will allow the development of small energetic sites, which would not have been accessible to more conventional fixing concepts.” Tidal currents offer a substantial and predictable source of renewable energy. The Scottish resource alone, if developed effectively, could provide enough electricity to support a population of 15 million. At present the potential to use tidal energy is limited by installation methods for turbines, which require firm attachment to the seabed. This is very expensive and, at present, requires turbines to be placed in water depths greater than 25 m and less than 50 m. The full size SNAIL is a prefabricated tidal device that can be cheaply installed in shallow and deep water. This will significantly increase the number of suitable sites for turbines and reduce installation costs. In addition, the potential export market for prefabricated tidal current devices which can be installed without specialist hardware, is considerable. Given the potential of the technology to the Scottish economy, the project has received GBP 158,000 (USD 300,000) from Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept Fund.
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