Researchers

Jim Thomson

Principal Oceanographer

AIRS Department

APL-UW

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Joe Talbert

Field Engineer II

AIRS Department

APL-UW

Alex de Klerk

Field Engineer II

AIRS Department

APL-UW

Chris Bassett

Research Assistant

AIRS Department

APL-UW

Funding

ONR

Turbulence Generated by Tides in the Canal de Chacao, Chile

Underwater turbines make electricity. And what we are looking for is how much turbulence is present in the channels at what stages of the tide to help improve the design conditions for those turbines. The random fluctuations that cause the turbulence are going to cause fluctuations throughout the mechanical system of the turbine. That will age the turbine – perhaps prematurely.

Jim Thomson contributed a series of articles for the New York Times 'Scientist at Work' blog in January and February 2013. The posts chronicle all phases of the experiment — from planning, to packing and shipping equipment, to waiting for that equipment to clear customs, to deploying and recovering the instruments, to taking a first look at the data.

Tidal Energy Conversion at the Canal de Chacao

Admiralty Inlet, WA, Tidal Energy Conversion Research

Canal de Chacao separates the Island of Chiloe from the mainland in south Chile. The prospect of tidal power generation in southern Chile is still at an early stage, but it has the potential to provide renewable energy to a remote region that is otherwise dependent on fossil fuels and hydroelectric dams. A lot of data is required to assess the site, both as a potential energy resource and as a marine ecosystem with specific sensitivities.

Our collaborators in Chile have already measured the tidal currents in Chacao for several months — long enough to have a good description (and prediction) of the rush of seawater through the 5-km-wide wide channel. The fundamental forces for the tides (from the moon and the sun) is harmonic, thus the tides are largely predictable.

These flows, however, generate smaller unpredictable features: turbulence. Turbulence can cause vibrations, fatigue and eventually failure of turbines. Turbulence is also part of what makes coastal regions so full of marine life. Our objective is to measure the magnitude and scales of turbulence, both to aid in the design of turbines for the site and to understand the fundamental dynamics of the channel.

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