Publication : Future policy implications of tidal energy array interactions

This is an unusual one for me so far, in that it contains no new science. Instead, it explores some of the policy implications of what we already know about how tidal farms will affect the flow in their channels, and affect each other, if they are deployed at large scales.

There are two main points that we’ve tried to get across:

  • Firstly, that if we are to achieve the greatest possible energy yield for a given level of environmental impact, we’ll need to strategically plan tidal developments for a whole region – not do them piecemeal.
  • Secondly, that tidal farms will interact. If they’re upstream and downstream of each other that interaction is detrimental, but if they’re side by side then they can have mutually beneficial effects. We think it’s a problem unique to tidal power that if one array stops working, its “rival” neighbor can lose power… and that raises a number of fun and interesting questions about management and liability.

After looking at the physics and the resulting policy issues, we discuss some ways of dealing with them. We argue that if we want to get the most that we can out of our seas we will need some form of interventionist, centrally planned, approach to managing tidal power; the free market will not deliver. The arrangements that we have at the moment are just fine while we’re only putting a few turbines in the water. But as we scale up – and we must scale up, if tidal energy is going to be significant at grid level – this stuff will start to matter, and it’d be really nice if the necessary policy frameworks were in place before they’re needed.

Diagram showing interactions between tidal farms in series and in parallel
Diagram summarizing some possible inter-array interactions. See my figure-making skills! The version in the paper doesn’t include the faces, which I added for a presentation, but in hindsight I wish it did!

I’m proud of this one, for two reasons: Firstly that I think it’s important, in that it asks some questions that I don’t think anybody in the marine spatial planning, policy or governance spaces has been thinking about much as yet (although I gather they have been grappling with similar issues around wind). Secondly because it’s been a genuine multidisciplinary, collaborative, process. I had the original idea for the paper a couple of years ago, and after discussion with one of the other authors we tried to flesh it out, but we realised that we needed people with policy expertise. We brought them on board – including Steph Weir, a former PhD officemate of mine who wrote major chunks and taught me about unitization – and the result is a pleasingly short paper that really couldn’t have existed without all five of its authors.

If you want to read the whole thing yourself – it’s only five pages long, and it’s written for a non-specialist audience – then you can get the official version here with a subscription to Marine Policy, or the unformatted, post-review, version here for free.

Posted by simon in Explaining my work, Publications

First journal article!

Well, sort of. My last post also listed two journal articles but I was a minor author on those, contributing a small part of the text and comments on the rest. This post is about my first article as lead author.

It’s called “Implementation of tidal turbines in MIKE 3 and Delft3D models of Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters”, and it describes work that myself and two groups at Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Universities did a few years ago, near the start of my PhD. Lots of people have represented tidal turbines in regional-scale flow models, but most of them have used academic codes that industry and investors won’t trust, or have modified trusted code – which itself tends to undermine that trust. Our aim for this work was to look at how tidal energy extraction can best be represented in two widely-used commerical modelling suites, without modifying their code. We also did some actual modelling, by way of example, and the results of that have been passed on to others in the project to use for ecological work.

In a small way this was perhaps a baptism by fire, in that I had to pull together work and writing done by people far senior to myself, add my own work on top of each, and try to construct a single coherent publication. Perhaps partly for this reason, coupled with my own inexperience, it had a long journey through review… but it’s out there now, and I’m glad it’s done!

If you have a subscription to Ocean & Coastal Management you can read the published version here; otherwise the “accepted version” (without journal formatting) is available at this finely crafted link.

Posted by simon in Publications, Reflective

Bon voyage.

Image by Pixabay user Skeeze, licensed CC0 public domain.

After a lot of buildup I’m packed, and I leave in the morning for Edinburgh. Which isn’t so exciting, but will be followed the next day by the journey to Japan. I’m very excited, and also nervous; nervous for many reasons, but I think most of all because I’ll be working with new collaborators who I’ve corresponded with by email, but never actually met. I’m sure all will be fine, but the beginning of new relationships is always a nervous time.

By a strange coincidence, today I found myself talking about my work to a group of “Marine Ambassadors”, undergraduates and high school students from Nagasaki who were visiting Orkney. They were amused to hear that I was going to pass through Nagasaki before they got back there!

While packing yesterday, I reflected that there were some things I was doing a little differently to a normal trip:

  • I have a small stock of Orkney whisky and fudge, because it’s customary to give gifts at the start of a visit.
  • For similar cultural reasons, I have twice as many business cards as usual.
  • I’ve sorted through my amusing T-shirts, and avoided taking the ones that rely on language humour. In doing this, I realised that most of my amusing T-shirts rely on language humour.
  • I’ve bought, and packed, some slip-on shoes. They’re not something I usually wear, but Japan is a place that can require taking one’s shoes off a lot, and re-lacing things gets boring fast.

Stay tuned!

Posted by simon in Working in Japan