Government incentive moves Irish tidal up the research scale

The testing of GKinetic’s scaled device in Limerick Docks (Photo: GKinetic Energy)

 
One week after securing the European patent for the system forming an essential part of its tidal energy technology – GKinetic Energy has reflected on the grant support received from the Irish government over the years which helped the company bring its tidal prototype closer to the market.

The Limerick-based tidal energy company GKinetic has last week secured a European patent protection for the dual cam blade pitch control system incorporated in its tidal energy prototype, stating the patent award makes an ‘essential part’ of the company’s business plan for commercialization.

GKinetic is developing a clean energy-generating device that consists of two vertical axis turbines placed on either side of a tear drop shaped vessel, which exploits its ‘bluff body’ to accelerate the flow of water into the turbines. Combining the accelerated flow with the dual cam blade pitch control system, the device produces more power, according to the company.

The concept advanced from paper to real-sea conditions for the first time in 2015, supported by Ireland’s national energy authority – the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) – established to transform Ireland into a society based on sustainable energy structures, technologies and practices.

Ocean Energy Prototype Development Fund serves its purpose

Between 2015 and 2017, GKinetic was awarded two grants through SEAI Ocean Prototype Development Fund which facilitated the deployment of the GKinetic turbine – named OC1 – at the Limerick Docks for two sets of tests.

GKinetic hydrokinetic device (Image: GKinetic Energy)

Almost €200,000 in funding collected through SEAI’s grants – set up to stimulate the development of ocean energy devices and systems – contributed to the design and tow testing of the 1:10 scale OC1 tidal turbine device.

The projects followed on from the initial numerical modelling and small-scale model testing completed at NUI Galway and the IFREMER flow tank facility in France.

The try-outs comprised the 150 completed tow tests, with a total towing recording time of 843 minutes, during which the total operational time of the device reached almost 40 hours, according to SEAI.

The goal of the tests was to assess the performance and survivability of redesigned turbine components and the turbine power production. The performance of the deployment vessel used during tow testing was also evaluated as part of the project, together with other data collected for 3D computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model validation, added GKinetic.

Vincent McCormack, Managing Director of GKinetic, said: “The Prototype Development Fund has given GKinetic a great start and the opportunity to rapidly move through technology readiness levels (TRLs) by collaborating with key industry and academic partners on the research and development of our tidal turbines.

“Without the support of the SEAI Prototype Development Fund, we would not have been able to progress our R&D efforts. SEAI’s support and encouragement has helped us work toward our vision to develop our technology to a utility scale.”

The Irish government’s support for the ocean energy was reaffirmed through the recently approved Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), which has been redesigned to diversify the renewable technology mix included in the Irish power grid.

The new RESS – for which marine energy projects are eligible to apply – will be characterized by a series of competitive renewable electricity auctions, starting from 2018.

Irish homes soon to light up with GKinetic’s tidal power injection

Currently, GKinetic is working with its strategic partner DesignPro Renewables to develop, test and commercialize a 25kW and a 60kW version of its turbine concept.

DesignPro plans to install the 25kW device variant at the SEENEOH test site in the French city of Bordeaux in September 2018. The full-scale device aims to have a power capacity of 500kW.

DesignPro Renewables device in operational mode (Image: DesignPro Renewables)

 
GKinetic is also taking part in the +CityxChange project that recently secured €20 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, under the call topic ‘Smart cities and communities’.

A further €10 million in funding will be provided by the project partners that will work together to develop smart positive energy cities across Europe. The project will begin in January 2019, and last for five years.

Through +CityxChange – GKinetic plans to deploy one of its tidal turbines in the Shannon Estuary to provide power to the Limerick city center. Once operational, this will be the first grid connected tidal turbine deployed in the Republic of Ireland, the company said.

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