Novel turbine to harvest energy from tides

A new company, Kepler Energy Limited, has been formed to further develop a tidal turbine that has the potential to harness tidal energy more efficiently and cheaply than current designs.

The turbine is the result of research in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford by Prof Guy Houlsby, Professor of Civil Engineering at Oxford, Dr Malcolm McCulloch, head of the electrical power group, and Prof Martin Oldfield, Emeritus Professor of the thermofluids laboratory. The researchers have received £50,000 in funding from the Oxford University Challenge Seed fund, managed by Isis Innovation, to build a 0.5metre diameter prototype demonstrating the benefits of the design. A full-scale device would measure up to 10metres in diameter, and a series of turbines could be chained together across a tidal channel. The unique feature of the design is that the turbine is cylindrical and rotates about a horizontal axis and so intersects the largest possible cross section of current. UK waters are estimated to offer 10% of the global extractable tidal resource. Tidal currents are sub-surface, so tidal turbines have minimum visual impact, unlike wind farms or estuary barrage schemes. Tom Hockaday, managing director at Isis Innovation said: "This is the latest in a number of spin-outs from the Department of Engineering Science. Isis is fortunate to work with such an entrepreneurial department, particularly on technologies which have the potential to make a big impact on our energy supply."