Autumn/Winter 2017

Strategies for tidal power

JFMS has been selected to be part of a major European consortium working to develop future strategies for tidal power.

Years of tidal energy expertise and innovation mean that James Fisher Marine Services is seen as a key partner in a major EU commissioned 20 million EURO tidal energy consortium. The JFMS team was asked to provide its specialised marine engineering and consultancy services, as well as its pioneering marine operations software, Mermaid, to optimise tidal energy device operational strategies for the consortium called Enabling Future Arrays in Tidal (EnFAIT).

EnFAIT is an association of nine leading industrial, academic and research organisations from across Europe which is headed by Scotland-based tidal energy company, Nova Innovation. The primary aim of the project is to increase the bankability of tidal power, highlighting its reliability, predictability and overall effectiveness as a future mainstream power source.

James Croftson, senior project engineer at JFMS, explains:

‘We are very happy to join with Nova in this consortium project as it utilises skills and systems that we have developed with long-term operational effectiveness of tidal power in mind.’

The project, which will run until June 2022, is a flagship initiative for the EU and marine energy sector and aims to increase the commercial viability of tidal power. It will tackle the main issues facing marine energy including the significant challenges of operating at sea in powerful and dynamic environments, the stresses and strains on the equipment and the inherently corrosive nature of the salt water.

Through the EnFAIT project, Nova’s existing tidal array at BlueMull Sound, off the Shetland Islands in Scotland, will be expanded from three turbines to six.  The layout of turbines will be adjusted part-way through so that array interactions can be studied and optimised. It is hoped that building the project on an existing operational site will allow the teams to generate real-world improvements from day one, while at the same time minimising development risks.

There JFMS is working alongside Nova to design intelligent subsea tooling for deploying and retrieving the turbines; helping to design the steel gravity-base foundation structures that secure and support the turbines and develop the interconnecting subsea infrastructure which links the turbines to shore.

Adam Leonard-Williams, marine operations advisor at JFMS says:

‘We have been centrally involved in 15 of the 20 tidal turbines deployed globally to date, and we have seen what works and what doesn’t. It is great to be able to showcase this experience here in a bid to increase the bankability of tidal power.’

Adam adds:

‘The offshore wind sector has recently seen an enormous plunge in costs, and although tidal energy is still a few years behind there are many lessons to be learned, and many opportunities to improve the way equipment is designed, installed and operated,’ 

‘That’s why we’re so pleased to be directly involved in EnFAIT now, in the design of the equipment and associated marine operations at this early stage.’

Nova has acknowledged the need for an early focus on the operational costs of the larger arrays, and is keen to incorporate as much of this type of thinking as possible into the more immediate design issues for the new turbines at EnFAIT in order to future-proof the technology and ensure maximum learning from the EnFAIT project.

‘In our experience the design of the marine operations to install, retrieve and maintain the equipment needs to be considered early in the design process, and then refined hand-in-hand with the actual equipment design, if the aim of minimising overall project costs is to be achieved.’

Explains Adam.

‘Existing turbines can be difficult, costly and risky to install, so when expanding to large arrays of turbines, even small improvements in the design of individual turbines, foundations and cabling systems can have massive impacts on overall project costs.'

He says. 

The EnFAIT project is expected to make a major contribution to reducing the lifetime costs of tidal energy, and it is hoped it will boost investor confidence by providing hard-edged analytics of commercial and operational performance to inform investment decisions.

‘We are confident that this project will pave the way for tidal energy being brought in to the mainstream, and for it to be perceived as a viable renewable source.’

Adam adds.

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