A holistic method for selecting tidal stream energy hotspots under technical, economic and functional constraints
Although a number of prospective locations for tidal stream farms have been identified, the development of a unified approach for selecting the optimum site in a region remains a current research topic. The objective of this work is to develop and apply a methodology for determining the most suitable sites for tidal stream farms, i.e. sites whose characteristics maximise power performance, minimise cost and avoid conflicts with competing uses of the marine space. Illustrated through a case study in the Bristol Channel, the method uses a validated hydrodynamics model to identify highly energetic areas and a geospatial Matlab-based program (designed ad hoc) to estimate the energy output that a tidal farm at the site with a given technology would have. This output is then used to obtain the spatial distribution of the levelised cost of energy and, on this basis, to preselect certain areas. Subsequently, potential conflicts with other functions of the marine space (e.g. fishing, shipping) are considered. The result is a selection of areas for tidal stream energy development based on a holistic approach, encompassing the relevant technical, economic and functional aspects. This methodology can lead to a significant improvement in the selection of tidal sites, thereby increasing the possibilities of project acceptance and development.