Quantification of uncertainty in sub-sea acoustic measurement, and validation of wave-current kinematics, at a tidal energy site

  • George Robert Northcote Crossley

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


As developers seek to convert the energy of the tides into electricity, sub-sea turbines must be designed to perform well in increasingly harsh conditions. Such energetic seas have historically been avoided, hence measurements taken below the surface in strong tidal currents and large waves are relatively few, and the theory behind these interactions is underdeveloped. This thesis compares measurements of subsurface velocity taken in the field, at a UK site proposed for development, to the velocity outputs of a model capable of combining waves and currents in a number of ways. In particular the interaction between waves and currents is investigated.The methodology incorporates a novel virtual velocity measurement instrument to measure the model flow, replicating the physical instruments used at sea, such that direct comparisons can be made between the two data-sets. Model and field velocities show good agreement across a range of current speeds and wave heights, with a range of metrics used to demonstrate the suitability of the model, based on linear wave-current theory,for this site. The wave-current interaction module is calibrated, with linear superposition of wave and current velocities proving a suitable representation of field velocities. Calculation of a dispersion relationship affected by mean current velocity marginally improves calibration with field data. Analysis of other sites using the tools developed will further validate this type of model, which in combination with blade element momentum theory,is able to predict pre-construction site specific loads on tidal turbines.Doppler Current Profilers (DCPs) are able to measure subsurface water particle kinematics and sea surface elevation simultaneously, however assumptions made by these instruments jeopardise detail when recording in highly energetic seas, particularly where waves and turbulent tidal currents combine. Models developed to optimise the design of tidal turbines require correct site specific inputs to accurately reflect the conditions that a turbine may encounter through its lifetime, moreover, the kinematics of these models must be accurately validated. To overcome the limitations in DCP measurements a 'Virtual' Doppler Current Profiler (VDCP)is developed (Crossley et al. 2017), enabling quantification of error in site characteristics, and 'like for like'comparisons of field and model kinematics that has never previously been documented. The numerical model developed incorporates tidal currents, waves and turbulence combined linearly to output subsurface velocity based on conditions from the field which have been averaged over ten minute intervals. The inputs are simple,time averaged characteristics (current magnitude, direction, and profile; wave height, period and direction,turbulence intensity and turbulence length-scale) and the model outputs velocities over a two dimensional grid that develops with time. The VDCP samples this ow as if it were the very instrument in the field that recorded the data used for validation. Taking into account the heading, pitch and roll of the instrument a data set directly comparable to that measured in the field is generated.The VDCP is initially used in quantifying error in wave and turbulence statistics, demonstrating a phase dependency of velocity measurements averaged between beams and providing a theoretical error for wave and turbulence characteristics sampled under a range of conditions, in order to improve tidal site characterisation. Spectral moments of the subsurface longitudinal wave orbital velocities recorded by the VDCP can be between 0.1 and 9 times those measured at a point for certain turbulent current conditions, turbulence intensity measurements may vary between 0.2 and 1.5 times the input value in low wave conditions and turbulence length scale calculations can vary by over ten times the input value,
Date of Award6 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Edinburgh
SupervisorSandy Day (Supervisor)

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