Universities given £7m to work on sustainable tidal stream energy

A project known as Co-Tide (Co-design to deliver Scalable Tidal Stream Energy) has received a £7m investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to help deliver renewable energy from ocean tides.

Co-Tide brings together multidisciplinary teams from the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and Strathclyde, offering expertise in fields such as device hydrodynamics, rotor materials, corrosion, risk and reliability, environmental modelling, and system control and optimisation.

clear blue body of water

Leading the project is the University of Oxford’s Professor of Engineering Science, Richard Willden who said: ‘We have a huge opportunity as a country to harness the powerful tides that surround us and use innovative engineering to develop greater energy security and clean energy to help us meet our 2050 net zero goals.

‘This EPSRC investment in CoTide allows us to bring together world-class engineering expertise and drive forward the kind of creative, collaborative research that will ensure the UK remains a world-leader in tidal stream development and deployment.’

Tidal stream turbines are fixed out at sea, positioned optimally to exploit the most suitable tidal flows, whereas traditional tidal barrages require turbines to be installed in structures such as dams or sea walls. This makes them cheaper to build and install and means they have less environmental impact.

It is thought such systems could generate over 6GW, enough to power more than five million homes, with an export market worth £25 billion supporting over 25,000 marine energy jobs.

The project will also have a strong focus on increasing the sustainability of tidal stream systems, exploring new methods to assess the environmental impact of tidal stream farms and whether turbine blades could be manufactured from bio-based materials that can degrade at the end of their life.

The researchers will work with a group of over twenty industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies including EDF Energy Plc, the Health and Safety Executive, the Marine Energy Council, and global manufacturer Arkema International. 

Sue Barr, Chair of the UK Marine Energy Council, said: ‘We are beginning to see real commercial traction for tidal stream projects. In order for tidal stream energy to become more competitive, we need real step changes in system performance, reliability metrics and scalability of the technology. This will require integrated tools which can be utilised by the sector to not only improve performance, but also increase confidence for investors and guarantors.’



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