The world’s first test centre aimed at accelerating the development of materials and structures for tidal energy is to be built in Scotland, thanks to collaboration between Babcock International and the University of Edinburgh. The £2.4m Fastblade project is to be based in Rosyth and will be the first facility ever to carry out large-scale accelerated testing of tidal blades.
Engineering researchers plan to use complex forces that simulate real-world environments; this will enable the highest design capabilities to be achieved. Fast blade forms part of a strategic partnership between Babcock and the University of Edinburgh, Babcock is the principal designer and host of the facility.
The centre will use hydraulic technology–developed by university spin-off company Artemis Intelligent Power (AIP), we spoke to AIP’s managing director Niall Caldwell last year, which will enable structures to be tested significantly faster and use less energy compared with current technologies. Measurement systems will allow the developers to learn from test datasets to understand damage accumulation and improve structures through data-led design.
This promises significant benefits, particularly in testing tidal blades, which are made up of composite materials that need to be capable of withstanding high fatigue loads in harsh ocean conditions for up to two decades. Tidal power has been touted as a potential key source of renewable energy in years to come, however it is a technology that is still in its infancy.
This could have been a contributing factor as to why the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project was rejected by the government last year. The £1.3bn lagoon was set to be the world’s first tidal lagoon power plant and could have offered multiple benefits to the UK. The government’s key concern was cited as its cost, but the project had potential. It could have provided sustainable, locally produced electricity and expertise regarding tidal lagoons.