• Kite testing in the flume tank
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Design and test of a novel method for generating power from tidal flows
Group Members
Joe Lamming, Joshua Mead, Ben Hamilton, Maria Benazzo, Chris Harley
Dr Christina Vanderwel, Professor Suleiman Sharkh, Professor Bharathram Ganapathisubramani
Tidal power is a largely untapped energy resource capable of reducing society’s dependence on fossil fuels. Current methods of generating tidal energy predominantly use stationary horizontal axis turbines parallel to the flow. The Underwater Power Kite is a dynamic design with a turbine mounted to the body, capable of traversing perpendicular to the flow at speeds several times that of the current.

The desired path for the kite is a ‘figure-of-eight’, capable of maintaining high speeds throughout the cycle, staying within a defined space, and preventing the tether and power transmission cables from tangling. The Underwater Power Kite project aimed to investigate the feasibility of achieving an optimal design with the minimum control input, maximising the potential power generation efficiency.

Firstly, the hydrodynamics of the kite were optimised using CFD (computational fluid dynamics) using the Lyceum High Performance Computing facility at the University of Southampton, in order to achieve a completely passive control system based purely on the geometry. Secondly, an active control system that altered the length of the two tethers attached to the kite body was investigated. Scale models (10cm wingspan) of different designs were 3D printed and tested in the Tizard Flume Tank at the University of Southampton, using both passive and active control systems.

For our configuration, tests for the passive control system were only marginally successful as the kite motion fluctuated and did not tend to a stable state. Active control of the kite was feasible, achieving the desired ‘figure-of-eight’ motion with a maximum speed of 1.2ms-1, six times the flow velocity.
Prepartion of scale model kite for flume testing

This image and below: Flume testing to validate performance of kite within flow