Energy from tidal currents - Kick-starting a new marine industry with huge potential

Waves. © Chris Sisarich, New Zealand Story

We are investigating whether generating electricity from the strong tidal currents within Cook Strait is viable for Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Project leader: Brett Beamsley, MetOcean Solutions

Duration: Nov 2017 – June 2019 
Budget: $300,000 
Status: Completed
 

Cook Strait, which is in the focal area for the Sustainable Seas Challenge, is potentially one of the best sites in the world for generating power from tidal currents. Tidal currents are a highly predictable renewable energy source. Our research is exploring how many tidal turbines would be enough to generate energy to power a major city like Auckland (about 1000 megawatts).  

One major barrier to industry investment in tidal current energy is lack of knowledge about the scale of investment required. We are using computer models to estimate power output from tidal flows within Cook Strait and determine the best locations within the Strait and the size required for a tidal turbine farm that could generate 1000 megawatts of electricity. We have also developed novel tools and methods to make it possible to rapidly estimate the power output from tidal energy.  

Another potential barrier to development is whether farms will affect the natural tidal flows, so we are also analysing their impact on tidal flows.  

Our research aims to provide the tools and quantitative data to stimulate industry investment and kick-start a new sector of the marine economy. 

 

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Media statement: Today's marine environment report from MfE and StatsNZ

Julie Hall, Director: "It is deeply concerning that the state of our marine environment has not improved in the last three years. Resilient coasts and oceans are essential to New Zealanders' health and wealth, so urgent action is needed to address the decline. There is a growing need for ecosystem-based management (EBM) to holistically manage risk and sustain Aotearoa's coasts and oceans. This is even more important given the ongoing impacts of climate change."

Job opportunity: Communications advisor

Do you have science communication skills and at least 2 years experience? Do you care about Aotearoa's oceans and how people use/value our seas? Then we've got a job for you.