Prince of Tides: A Mammoth Turbine

What is being described as the world’s largest tidal power turbine was unveiled this week in Scotland. Dubbed the AK1000 by its developer, the Atlantis Resources Corporation, the one-megawatt turbine weighs 1,430 tons, stands nearly 75 feet tall and has six 60-foot diameter blades that can produce enough electricity to supply more than 1,000 homes.

The turbine will be installed later this summer at the European Marine Energy Center in the far north of Scotland, where it will be used to power a computer data center.

“Today is not just about our technology, it is about the emergence of tidal power as a viable asset class that will require the development of local supply chains employing local people to deliver sustainable energy to the local grid,” Timothy Cornelius, chief executive of Atlantis, said in a statement on Thursday. “The AK1000 takes the industry one step closer to commercial scale tidal power projects.”

Tidal power represents just a tiny fraction of the renewable energy produced worldwide, mostly because of the significant technical hurdles of deploying large turbines in flowing water. The majority of turbines in operation are experimental prototypes deployed in Europe.

Yet as the unveiling of the AK1000 clearly shows, the allure of producing clean, reliable power from the daily in-and-out flux of the tides continues to attract significant investment. And Atlantis faces substantial competition in the race to develop affordable commercial-scale tide power, with dozens of other companies developing a variety of turbine designs.

Flowing water can be tapped for power just as wind is, but because water is far denser than air, its movement contains far more potential energy. Tidal energy has other benefits: as turbines are placed underwater, they are silent and out of sight. And many tidal inlets with significant energy potential are found close to the densely populated urban areas where electricity demand is highest.

Rough and cold seas can cause heavy wear and tear on tidal turbines, but Atlantis says its machines are designed specifically to withstand the rigors of the North Atlantic.

“In order to get a robust turbine, we have had to make what we call ultimately the dumbest, simple but most robust turbine you could possibly put in such a harsh environment,” Mr. Cornelius told BBC Scotland.


Source: JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF, The New York Times
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