Energy from the Cornwall Tide is Just a Channel Away

Tidal energy stations are found in Nova Scotia and Japan, and a group of researchers in Cornwall, England would like to see a similar generation scheme in the Bristol Channel. The idea is the brainchild of engineers at Hi-Spec Research and Developments of Fowey, and a small team is currently producing a comprehensive report on the mechanical, design and economic viability of the project. The offshore Ocean Hydro Electricity Generator (OHEG) power plant allows electricity to be generated from the sea, around the clock.

To date the company has been funding this project on its own, but a grant application submitted to the DTI under their Technology Program could help finance a full-scale feasibility study for a plant capable of producing approximately 20 percent of Cornwall’s energy requirements, according to the company. Together with possible support from other commercial organizations, Hi-Spec hopes to turn this concept into reality. Hi-Spec Managing Director Pat Cooke said, “We have brought together a number of existing technologies to create the patented OHEG system. When combined with our own energy accumulator invention, this provides a unique method for generating electricity from the sea, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” The offshore OHEG structure would consist of three rows of chambers and two outer walls, creating four channels for the tidal stream to be diverted through. Within the chambers would be groups of energy accumulators, which create power from the rise and fall of the tide. Between the rows of chambers and the outer walls are banks of tidal turbines, with four banks per channel. The OHEG plant holds back over 6 million tons of water every six and a half hours, and in doing so creates power through the chamber turbines. The plant also makes a suitable foundation for offshore wind turbines, although they are not essential for its operation, and Hi-Spec stated that the OHEG system is six-times more powerful than the wind farm it supports. Cooke said, “An ideal location would be the Bristol Channel, due to its high tide heights, strong tidal flow rates and a flat sea bed of the right depth. Our initial calculations show that the OHEG system alone would be capable of producing 200MW of electricity, with an additional 30MW achieved by the wind farm. Currently Cornwall uses about 650-700MW.” He said that the anticipated generating figures were in line with the government’s policy to use renewable energy to create 20 percent of the country’s energy by 2020. Britain is currently near the bottom of the international league of sustainable-energy producers, with just 4 percent of electricity coming from renewable sources. Energy Minister Mike O’Brien has said the Government wants to increase this to 10 percent by 2010.

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