Test site for FastBlade tidal turbines opened in Scotland

A picture of the £4.6million FastBlade facility. Scotland has long been associated with oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, but in recent years has also become a hub for companies and projects focused on tidal power and ocean energy in general.

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A £4.6 million ($5.64 million) facility that will allow tidal turbine blades to be tested in strenuous conditions has officially opened and the people behind it hope to accelerate the development of ocean energy technology and the will reduce costs.

In a statement late last week, the University of Edinburgh said the site was the “world’s first rapid test facility for tidal turbine blades”.

It added that the FastBlade facility would use a 75-ton reaction frame capable of “exercising powerful forces on turbine blades longer than 50 feet.”

FastBlade is a partnership between aerospace company Babcock International and the university, backed with £1.8million by the UK Government. The test center is located in the town of Rosyth.

Tests on blades, the university said, would be “carried out using a system of powerful hydraulic cylinders capable of simulating in less than three months the stresses the structures will experience during two decades at sea.”

Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, head of the university’s engineering school, said FastBlade is “the world’s first dedicated fatigue testing facility for tidal turbine blades”.

He added that it would also “help to maintain the world leadership position of Scottish tidal turbine developers in the race to find clean and safe sources of energy”.

The University of Edinburgh said FastBlade technology could also be used to test wing components for aircraft and light bridge sections.

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Scotland has long been associated with oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, but in recent years has also become a hub for companies and projects focused on tidal power and ocean energy in general.

Those companies include tidal power company Nova Innovation and Orbital Marine Power, which is working on what it says is “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine.”

In the waters north of mainland Scotland, the Orkney archipelago is home to the European Marine Energy Center or EMEC, where wave and tidal energy developers can test and evaluate their technology in the open sea.

European installations of tidal and wave energy capacity skyrocketed in 2021 as the ocean energy sector saw a return to pre-pandemic levels and a significant increase in investment.

In March, Ocean Energy Europe announced that 2.2 megawatts of tidal power capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kilowatts in 2020. For wave power, 681 kW was installed, a tripling, according to OEE.

Globally, 1.38 MW of wave power was connected to the grid in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal power capacity was installed. Capacity refers to the maximum amount of power plants that can be produced, not what they necessarily produce.

While the potential of ocean energy is exciting, the footprint of tidal and wave projects remains very small compared to other renewable energies.

According to the industry association WindEurope, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity in 2021 alone.

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/17/fastblade-tidal-turbine-testing-site-opens-in-scotland.html Test site for FastBlade tidal turbines opened in Scotland

Gary B. Graves

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