Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence



  An ongoing research project is being conducted, over the period October 2006—September 2008, jointly by the University of Liverpool and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory for the Joule Centre, under financial support from the North West Development Agency.


  To establish a generic regional modelling approach to study the interaction between the practicable exploitation of tidal energy and potential hydrological, morphological and environmental impacts in the Eastern Irish Sea. Its principal study objectives, each with distinctive deliverable outcomes, are:

  1.  To evaluate the realisable tidal energy potential of the coasts of the North West of England, stretching from the Dee estuary to the Solway, with regard to the installation of estuary barrages, tidal fence structures or tidal stream rotor arrays, or combinations thereof.

  2.  To establish the potential daily generation window from optimal conjunctive operation of such devices, taking account of the different possible modes of operation (ebb, flood or dual phase generation) in the case of barrages.

  3.  To evaluate any impact on the overall tidal dynamics of the Irish Sea as a consequence of this energy extraction and the associated modifications by time lag in estuary momentum exchange.

  4.  Arising from (3), to assess the implications, if any, of biophysical coupling in the marine ecosystem, manifesting water quality or ecological consequences.

  5.  To ascertain the scale of flood protection benefit likely to accrue from proactive operation of barrages, fully accounting for the worsening effects of sea level rise (SLR) and change in catchment rainfall regimes as a consequence of climate change, so affecting fluvial flood magnitudes and frequencies.

The study outcomes will place on a firm footing the potential of the North West to achieve contributions (in terms of generating capacity, daily generation window and predictability) towards renewable energy targets by exploitation of its substantial tidal resources.

  The Maritime Engineering and Water Systems Research Group at the University of Liverpool has for many years been involved in national and international research projects on studying coastal hydrodynamics and morphodynamics with use of large-scale laboratory facilities and advanced process-based numerical models.

  Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory has world-class expertise and is internationally known for research on tides, coastal oceanography and numerical modelling. It hosts the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) and the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL).

July 2007

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