Porous pine suits tidal turbine

A Norwegian company has begun installing a 1.5MW prototype tidal-energy plant featuring turbines constructed with wooden blades.

Hydra Tidal will moor the floating power plant – known as Morild – to the seabed of Gimsøystraumen marine channel in Nordland County.
The turbine blades, which are made of laminated pine, are a novelty for a modern turbine-blade design as wood has not been used for such an application for decades.

Yet Hydra Tidal extols the use of wood for this application because it is naturally porous and homogenous material – so it has better mechanical and hydrological characteristics than current conventional materials, such as composites and steel.

The major challenge for Hydra Tidal has been the assembly process, but the company claims to have found a solution.

The Morild power plant will be assembled on land and then towed to its operating location for installation. Later, when maintenance is needed, it can be detached and floated to the surface for repair.

Hydra Tidal is receiving funding for two projects sponsored by the Research Council of Norway. One project is studying Morild’s wood components at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) laboratories in Trondheim and will verify the company’s findings.

The other project involves testing the effects of extreme environmental conditions on the entire Morild construction. The objective is to examine, test and analyse how such conditions affect a floating facility for converting the energy of slow coastal currents, tidal streams and ocean currents.

The projects will culminate in a full-scale test in the water in June 2010. Development of the concept has cost roughly NOK125m (£14m) over the last 10 years, funded primarily by industrial participants and investors.