Environmental Protection

Harnessing Tidal Energy

Kepler Energy Limited has been formed to develop a tidal turbine that has the potential to harness tidal energy more efficiently and cheaply, using a device which is simpler, more robust and more scalable than current designs.

The turbine is the result of research in Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science by Professor Guy Houlsby, Professor of Civil Engineering, Dr. Malcolm McCulloch, head of the electrical power group, and Professor Martin Oldfield, Emeritus Professor of the thermofluids laboratory.

Kepler Energy Limited will design, test and develop a horizontal axis water turbine intended to intersect the largest possible area of current. The rota is cylindrical and rolls around its axis, thereby catching the current. The researchers received £50,000 in funding from the Oxford University Challenge Seed fund, managed by Isis Innovation, to build a 0.5 meter diameter prototype demonstrating the benefits of the design. A full-scale device would measure up to 10 meters in diameter, and a series of turbines can be chained together across a tidal channel.

U.K. waters are estimated to offer 10 percent of the global extractable tidal resource. Tidal currents are sub-surface, so tidal turbines have minimum visual impact, unlike wind farms or estuary barrage schemes.

Tom Hockaday, managing director at Isis Innovation said, "This is the latest in a number of spin-outs from the Department of Engineering Science. Isis is fortunate to work with such an entrepreneurial department, particularly on technologies which have the potential to make a big impact on our energy supply."

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