The available power from tidal stream turbines in the Pentland Firth

Thomas A. A. Adcock, Scott Draper, Guy T. Houlsby, Alistair G. L. Borthwick, Sena Serhadlıoğlu


This paper assesses an upper bound for the tidal stream power resource of the Pentland Firth. A depth-averaged numerical model of the tidal dynamics in the region is set-up and validated against field measurements. Actuator disc theory is used to model the effect of turbines on the flow, and to estimate the power available for generation after accounting for losses owing to mixing downstream of the turbines. It is found that three rows of turbines extending across the entire width of the Pentland Firth and blocking a large fraction of the channel can theoretically generate 1.9 GW, averaged over the spring–neap cycle. However, generation of significantly more power than this is unlikely to be feasible as the available power per additional swept area of turbine is too small to be viable. Our results differ from those obtained using simplified tidal channel models of the type used commonly in the literature. We also use our numerical model to investigate the available power from rows of turbines placed across various subchannels within the Pentland Firth, together with practical considerations such as the variation in power over the spring–neap tidal cycle and the changes to natural tidal flows which result from power extraction.

  • Received February 3, 2013.
  • Accepted June 13, 2013.
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