An unsteady hydrodynamic model for tidal current turbines

Tom McCombes

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Due to concerns about the impacts of carbon emissions on the environment, the security of supply of electricity and the likelihood of achieving “peak-oil” in the near future, governments have legislated to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. An attractive alternative is power obtained from tidal currents, and the coast of the British Isles is especially hydraulically active.
Tidal energy converters typically resemble wind turbines however, unlike wind turbines, they are expected to operate in an environment which is singularly hostile, and will also be expected to generate power in non-ideal operating conditions. This thesis is concerned with the ability to model individual and groups of tidal devices including their mutual interactions. The ability to capture unsteady inflow conditions at realistic array spacing requires preservation of turbine wakes over a sufficiently large range at spatial resolutions and over time durations which are not feasible using standard computational fluid dynamics software. This thesis has combined methodologies developed for helicopter wake modelling with techniques used in naval architecture for modelling thick
maritime propellers into a computational tool. The particular formulation of the Navier-Stokes equations employed allows the determination of the unsteady pressure and force distributions on a turbine rotor due to the effects of a neighbouring device, even if it is operating some significant distance upstream.
The constituents of the method of this thesis are developed and applied to “proof-of principle” studies. These include flow past static and oscillating 2-D aerofoils and past a 3-D wing, wind turbine and tidal turbine configuration. The results from these studies demonstrate that the model is convergent and capable of capturing the time dependant forces on these devices, and by comparison with analytical or experimental results, or via inter-model comparison begins the process of calibration and validation of the model. The
method is then applied to flow past groups of turbines in various array configurations, and a coaxial, contra-rotating device.
The outcome of this work is a decision making tool which can be used to improve success and reduce risk in tidal power array planning, optimise device configurations and is translatable back into rotorcraft or naval architecture usage.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Mechanical And Aerospace Engineering
  • Grant, Andrew, Supervisor
  • Johnstone, Cameron, Supervisor
  • Brown, Richard, Advisor
Award date11 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2014


  • sustainable energy sources
  • Tidal Current Power (TCP)
  • unsteady flow
  • contra rotating marine turbines
  • model calibration

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