Production of electricity using hydro-kinetic tidal turbines has many challenges that must to be overcome to ensure reliable, economic and practical solutions. Energy from flowing water is converted by a system comprising: the turbine rotor blades, a gearbox, an electrical generator, control systems, power electronics, export cables, and a connection to the electricity grid. To date these have often been modelled using simulations of independent systems, lacking bi-directional, real-time, coupling. This approach leads to critical effects being missed. Turbulence in the flow, results in large velocity fluctuations around the blades, causing rapid variation in the shaft torque and generator speed, and consequently in the voltage seen by the power electronics and consequently the export power quality. The resulting poor quality power may be unacceptable to the grid. Conversely, grid frequency and voltage changes can also cause the generator speed to change, resulting in changes to the shaft speed and torque and consequently changes to the lift and drag forces acting on the blades. Clearly, fully integrated, bi-directional, models are needed. Here we present two fully coupled models which use different approaches to model the hydrodynamics of rotor blades. The first model uses Blade Element Momentum Theory (BEMT), resulting in an efficient tool for turbine designers. The second model also uses BEMT combines this with an actuator line model of the blades coupled to an unsteady computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation. This simulation, implemented in OpenFOAM, uses an energy balance to compute the shaft speed. Both the BEMT and CFD models are coupled to an Open Modellica model of the electro-mechanical system. Both models have been used to simulate the performance of a 1.2m diameter, scale model, of a three bladed horizontal axis tidal turbine tested in the University of Edinburgh FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility. The turbulent flow around the blades and the mechanical-electrical variables during the stable period of operation are analysed. Time series and tabulated average values of mechanical thrust, power, torque, and rotational speed as well as electrical variables of generator power, electromagnetic torque, voltage and current are presented for the coupled system simulation. The relationship between the mechanical and electrical variables and the results from both tidal turbine approaches are discussed. Our comparison shows that while the BEMT model provides an effective design tool (leading to slightly more conservative designs), the CFD/BEMT simulations provide more accurate predictions of the blade loads which can be especially important in assessing fatigue on the blades (though at an increased computational cost).
coupled system; tidal turbine; electrical system; blade element momentum theory; actuator line model; computational fluid dynamics
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