Installation Begins in Cape Cod Canal for Tidal Turbine Test Site

BUZZARDS BAY – A nonprofit dedicated to helping develop marine renewable energy technology is working this week to install a test site for small turbines in the Cape Cod Canal.

The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative is installing pilings and a platform near the Buzzards Bay railroad bridge which will allow companies to test smaller energy generating turbines in tidal flows around 5 knots.

Collaborative Executive Director John Miller said the test site will help developers save money by eliminating the permitting process.

“In this industry the cost of doing a test site involves an awful lot of permitting and doing something in the ocean is difficult,” Miller said. “Our idea is to develop pre-permitted test sites that allow developers to come in and be able to test in a very cost effective manner.”

The test site will be able to test turbines up to 3 meters, or 10 feet, in diameter.

“To do that in this kind of water you have to have a very strong structure,” Miller said.

Piles are being driven about 40 feet into the seabed near the railroad bridge on the mainland side of the canal and extend above the water line. A platform will then be able to raise and lower a turbine for testing into and out of the water.

The tidal flows in the canal are about 5 knots, which is quick but not as fast as in areas where permanent tidal turbines are being installed.

Much larger tidal turbines are currently generating energy in Northern Scotland and the Bay of Fundy in Canada, where tidal flows are up to 10 or 12 knots.

“Those turbines are being put on the bottom to be able to survive in that kind of environment they have to be very large and very robust,” Miller said. “We are talking 100 tons of steel and something that is 30 meters in diameter.”

The canal test site will allow engineers to test turbines that are at least half scale to those being installed permanently.

Miller said the canal is fairly constrained in size and would not be a location for a permanent tidal turbine installation.

“For testing it is perfect,” he said. “It allows us to test a turbine in fast water fairly close to shore so it can be easily accessible and do testing for prolonged periods of time.”


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