Turbine testing spreads to Asia

Asian tidal turbine testing initiatives are still modest compared to those in Europe and North America. We look at how the region is making significant progress.

By Jason Deign on Jun 30, 2014

Power-needy Asian states are waking up to the potential for tidal energy development. And while the scale of turbine testing initiatives is still small compared to efforts in Europe and North America, progress is nevertheless being made towards commercialisation at a number of sites.

Currently South Korea leads the way in the deployment of tidal power, although most of its focus so far has been on barrage rather than stream turbine plants.

Its 254MW Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Plant, completed in 2011, is the biggest tidal power plant in the world, beating France’s venerable La Rance lagoon by 14MW.

But even Sihwa will be dwarfed by the 812MW tidal barrage that Daewoo is expected to finish building next year off Ganghwa Island, near the city of Incheon. And by 2017 South Korea is planning a 44-turbine, 1,320MW plant in the same area, among other lagoon projects.

To the south of the country, though, a number of tidal stream sites have been identified, with a total potential in excess of 600MW, according to material published in 2006 by the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute (now Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology).

Voith deployment

One of these projects, located at Uldolmok, has already been exploited with a 1MW plant commissioned in 2009 and extended to 1.5MW in 2011. The same year, the German company Voith deployed a 1:3-scale, 110kW test turbine near the island of Jindo.

Details of a proposed 150MW project called Sea Turtle Tidal Park, also involving Voith, remain sketchy, but interest in tidal stream technology remains strong elsewhere in the country.

In June, for example, the Korean firm Jeongseok Partners announced a 5MW variable-angle turbine that can take advantage of low current speeds.

Further east, Japan is also eyeing tidal power among the other renewable energy options it needs to develop in the wake of its Fukushima-induced nuclear phase-out.

Tocardo International, the Dutch turbine maker, became active in Japan in 2012 after signing a dealership contract with Spectol Power Design. As of last October it had sold one turbine and was expecting to launch a demo project this year, according to material from the company.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries

The other potential big-hitter in the Japanese tidal industry is Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI).

KHI is holding onto a berth at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, Scotland, but as previously reportedin Tidal Today has yet to go public with the details of its first test deployments.

“The company is still working on design and cost reduction of tidal power generation systems,” confirms Yoshiyuki Kinugasa of KHI’s public relations department.

Back over the East China Sea, China’s tidal stream ambitions are currently centred on the Daishan project in Zhejiang.

Atlantis Resources is supplying one of its AR1000 turbines for the grid-connected demonstration project, which is being developed by the China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group with funding from China’s State Oceanic Administration.

Lead project

“In Asia it’s all about testing turbines prior to deployment,” says a source close to the turbine maker. “The lead project in Asia at the moment is Daishan. The AR1000 is in the process of being sent out there.”

Before being deployed at Daishan, the turbine will be tested onshore in Hangzhou, with Atlantis working alongside Dongfang Electrical Machinery Co., Bloomberg reported in April.

Atlantis is also pursing a 250MW project in India’s Gulf of Kutch, alongside Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL).

“The project is currently the largest planned tidal array in Asia, and an important precursor to future development of other opportunities in the state, both offshore and inland,” claims Atlantis on its web site.

“GPCL and Atlantis are now working to compile and submit the information required to substantiate the level of the required tidal power tariff.”

The Chinese and Indian schemes make Atlantis, which is also pursuing opportunities in the ailing Australian tidalmarket, one of the most active turbine makers in Asia.

Tidal test centre

So it is perhaps fitting that the manufacturer’s hometown of Singapore is also looking to host Asia’s foremost tidal test centre.

The Energy Research Institute(ERI@N) at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is starting off small, with a two-turbine, 1kW pilot being set up under a pedestrian bridge to the tourist and residential island of Sentosa.

The tidal turbine test bed was set up last November in collaboration with the Sentosa Development Corporation and designed, built and installed by NTU engineers from ERI@N.

“The NTU tidal turbine system consists of two low-flow turbines mounted on the test bed, optimised for local conditions,” said the university in a press release.

“Compared to typical turbines, these specially designed prototypes are able to work at higher efficiency despite low water speeds, similar to those found in Singapore’s waters.

“The research data gathered will allow NTU to develop more innovative turbine concepts to cater to Singapore’s environment and beyond.”