Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Calculating tidal energy turbines' effects on sediments and fish

Date:
January 2, 2011
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Engineers are developing computer models to study how changes in water pressure and current speed around tidal turbines affect sediment buildup and fish health.

Model results of the water speed around a turbine blade. Currents are slower (blue) behind the blade, and faster (red) at the blade's tip.
Credit: University of Washington

The emerging tidal-energy industry is spawning another in its shadow: tidal-energy monitoring. Little is known about tidal turbines' environmental effects and environmentalists, regulators and turbine manufacturers all need more data to allow the industry to grow.

Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a set of numerical models, solved by computers, to study how changing water pressure and speed around turbines affects sediment accumulation and fish health. They will present their findings this week at the American Geophysical Union's meeting in San Francisco.

The current numerical models look at windmill-style turbines that operate in fast-moving tidal channels. The turbine blade design creates a low-pressure region on one side of the blade, similar to an airplane wing. A small fish swimming past the turbine will be pulled along with the current and so will avoid hitting the blade, but might experience a sudden change in pressure.

Teymour Javaherchi, a UW mechanical engineering doctoral student, says his model shows these pressure changes would occur in less than 0.2 seconds, which could be too fast for the fish to adapt.

If the pressure change happens too quickly the fish would be unable to control their buoyancy and, like an inexperienced scuba diver, would either sink to the bottom or float to the surface. During this time the fish would become disoriented and risk being caught by predators. In a worst-case scenario, severe pressure changes could cause internal hemorrhaging and death.

It's too early to say whether tidal turbines could harm fish in this way, Javaherchi said. The existing model uses the blade geometry from a wind turbine.

"The competition between the companies is very tight and they are hesitant to share the designs," Javaherchi said.

The researchers are open to working with any company that wants to use the technique to assess a particular turbine design.

Another set of numerical modeling looked at whether changes in speed of water flow could affect the settling of suspended particles in a tidal channel. Slower water speeds behind the turbine would allow more particles to sink to the bottom rather than being carried along by the current.

Javaherchi's modeling work suggests this is the case, especially for mid-sized particles of about a half-centimeter in diameter, about two-tenths of an inch. This would mean that a rocky bottom near a tidal turbine might become sandier, which could affect marine life.

The UW research differs from most renewable energy calculations that seek to maximize the amount of energy generated.

"We are [also] interested in the amount of energy that can be extracted by the turbines, but we are aware that the limiting factor for the development of these technologies is the perception by the public that they might have a big environmental impact," said Alberto Aliseda, a UW assistant professor of mechanical engineering and Javaherchi's thesis adviser.

As to whether any negative effects discovered for tidal turbines would be preventable, Aliseda said, "Absolutely."

"We need to establish what is the lowest pressure that the animals can sustain and the period of time that they need to adjust," Aliseda said. "The blade can be shaped to minimize this effect."

Aliseda says engineers in the wind-turbine industry are already adapting the UW work to look at interactions between wind turbines and bats, since high-frequency pressure changes are now thought to be responsible for the mysterious deaths of bats caused by wind turbines.

"Maybe the best turbine is not the one that extracts the most energy, but the one that extracts a reasonable amount of energy and at the same time minimizes the environmental effects," he said.

The research was funded by a Department of Energy grant to the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. Joseph Seydel, a Boeing engineer and UW graduate in mechanical engineering, also contributed to the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Calculating tidal energy turbines' effects on sediments and fish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213101808.htm>.
University of Washington. (2011, January 2). Calculating tidal energy turbines' effects on sediments and fish. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213101808.htm
University of Washington. "Calculating tidal energy turbines' effects on sediments and fish." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213101808.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins