EU-backed ELEMENT project, whose aim is to slash the cost of tidal energy by 17% using artificial intelligence, is well underway with preparations to start with the onshore testing programme at ORE Catapult’s Blyth facility.

Visualisation of a tidal turbine on the 1MW powertrain test rig (Courtesy of ELEMENT)
Visualisation of a tidal turbine on the 1MW powertrain test rig (Courtesy of ELEMENT)

The onshore testing will see the Nova Innovation’s RE50 tidal turbine installed on ORE Catapult’s 1MW powertrain test facility as part of the first in a series of test campaigns to verify the ELEMENT control system performance.

On the expected successful completion of the onshore testing, the turbine will undergo tow trials before being transported to the Étel estuary test site in Brittany.

The optimised and validated ELEMENT control system will then be installed on an existing Nova M100 tidal turbine in the Shetland Tidal Array as well.

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the ELEMENT project is developing a control system that will show how artificial intelligence can slash the cost of tidal energy by an estimated 17%, bolstering the case for tidal energy as an important part of the world’s future energy mix.

From mid-2019 to mid-2022, eleven academic and commercial partners are working together to develop and demonstrate the ELEMENT control system for Nova Innovation’s turbines.

The test set up allows the performance of the ELEMENT control system to be demonstrated for representative tidal flow conditions. The onshore testing provides a controlled test environment where test conditions are defined by the operator – not the prevalent tidal or sea conditions, according to ELEMENT.

Not only does this provide a unique opportunity for tuning and optimisation of the control system under controlled conditions, but also improves confidence of the ELEMENT control system performance by minimising the risk of early complications and unplanned maintenance – significantly easier to address in the test hall compared to an offshore deployment.

The data gathered will verify the ELEMENT control system performance, across a range of tidal conditions, and provide the opportunity to complete initial optimisation of the control system prior to the offshore testing programme – key elements of successfully delivering the ELEMENT project.

Ultimately, the onshore testing provides independently verified results that will help developers across the sector assess the benefits of introducing intelligent control systems to maximise energy capture and reduce operational overheads.

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