A short research visit to Orkney

I will conduct a short research visit to Orkney with funding support of UK Fluids Network. This visit will connect my research to tidal energy. More details are below:

Sensitivity study of the tidal circulation pattern around the Orkney Islands – is there a threshold of chaos?

Dr Ruo-Qian Wang, School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee, Visiting: Dr David K Woolf, International Centre Island Technology, Heriot-Watt University, Orkney Campus

The UK leads the way in commercializing tidal energy, with several large-scale Tidal Energy Converters (TEC) installed and connected to the grid. These devices extract energy from the natural tidal streams, causing tidal stream decay and flow passage blockage. This issue raises a pressing question – how much energy extraction will change the general tidal circulation pattern? This change may shift the balance of sediment transport in the coastal area and endanger the coastal public safety. In addition, the change of tidal stream distribution can compromise the productivity of existing and planned tidal energy plants.

The proposed collaborative study between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Dundee will focus on the area around the Orkney Islands, which is one of the top marine energy development centres in the world. The tidal circulation system around these islands features a strong tidal stream in the Pentland Firth, which is a narrow strait connecting the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. The prosperity of the local commercial marine energy business relies on this unique high-speed stream. However, there is a concern that the blockage effect and the energy harnessing process in Pentland Firth may alter the general flow pattern and compromise the business outlook.

The proposed SRV is targeted at connecting the local researchers to collect existing onsite datasets and develop a reliable numerical model. A sensitivity study will be conducted using the numerical model to discover if there is a critical threshold beyond which flow and sedimentation around the Orkney Islands change abruptly.

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