By varying the drag of the fan-like turbines on the water, the simulated farms could slow the tidal pulse through the channel, building up water pressure. Releasing that pressure resulted in fast flow of water through the turbines, generating up to three times more power in some simulations than at a normal high tide, the researchers write in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, which published their results.
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Tidal power plants' production ebbs at low tide, and any demand for power above the turbines' output must be met by other energy sources. But by storing tidal energy, turbine farm operators could time the farm's peak energy production to match the hours of highest electricity demand.
The authors estimate that by storing tidal inertia, a turbine farm in the 15-mile-wide Cook Strait could meet up to 90 percent of peak energy demand.
Photo: An Evopod tidal stream turbine is installed in Strangford Lough near Portaferry, Northern Ireland. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Ocean Flow Energy Ltd.