HPC will help Bangor’s work on tidal power
The new HPC Wales computer will help us balance our future power needs with our desire to save the environment.
The School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University is carrying out detailed modelling to predict the long-term impact of site-choice for tidal power generation systems.
As the world is taking action to reduce the damaging carbon emissions associated with fossil-fuel-based electrical power generation, attention is being focussed on renewable energy sources.
Tidal power systems are attracting particular attention due to the extremely reliable natural event that underpins their operation – the tide always comes in and goes out twice a day!
Marine tidal turbines directly harness the power of the tidal flow in a location by using what are effectively underwater propellers that are turned by the flow of the tide, and operate electrical generators.
Choosing sites for such generation plants, and their detailed design, requires a careful balance to be struck between how much energy is removed from the tidal flow and how this energy removal will impact the natural environment in the vicinity of the plant. Dr Simon Neill, who leads the modelling work in this area at Bangor University, sees great potential in using HPC Wales to enable the modelling of the long-term impact of the construction of a marine tidal turbine.
He said: “With the computing capability we currently have we can only model the impact of a marine tidal turbine on the sea floor for a single lunar cycle, a period of about a month.
“Over such a short timescale, the changes to the sea floor do not actually have a material impact on the tidal flows being modelled, and can be safely ignored.
“The lifetime of a marine generation plant is expected to be at least 25 years, and changes to the sea floor over this time period will potentially have a great impact on the actual tidal flows being modelled.
“Accurate prediction of the impact of a plant must include the changes to the tidal flow that are going to occur over this extended time period, and the limitations of the computing capability that we have had available have, so far, prevented us from doing this.
“Access to the HPC Wales computing capability will now, for the first time, enable us to predict with some certainty what the lifetime impact of a generation plant will be.”
This modelling is important as we need to be able to assess any ecological impacts caused by the plant. These would include how any change to the shape of the sea bed that may occur might affect navigable shipping channels or the impact on storm waves reaching coastal regions, as well as any possible economic impacts on the fishing industry. These all need to be understood and factored into the planning decision process.”
Dr Neill added: “I see great potential here. By enabling us to provide predictions of the true impact of a marine power generation installation we can provide data that will enable those planning the installations to choose the locations and designs that achieve the best balance between meeting our power needs and impacting the environment. Without access to HPC, we would not be able to do this.”