Marine current energy converters or tidal turbines represent an emerging renewable energy technology that can provide a predictable supply of electricity. Single devices are in operation around the world with aspirations to deploy farms or arrays of multiple devices.
We present an experimental study that has characterised the downstream wake flow around a 1/15th-scale turbine in a large circulating water channel and a series of experiments involving static actuator disks at 1/120th-scale allowing simulation of multiple-device layouts.
Our analysis demonstrates that the near wake is highly turbulent with structures generated by the rotor and support structure. This region of flow may prove difficult to numerically simulate with a high degree of accuracy. In the far wake the performance of static actuator disks can be matched to mechanical rotors reducing scale and cost facilitating replication of complex array geometries. Here the ambient turbulence and geometric properties of the device/channel drive the wake recovery towards free stream conditions.
Devices operating downstream of others will be subject to a non-steady flow field making comparative performance difficult. We discuss the possibility of unequal device specification and rated power within an array (unlike wind farms) providing a more representative measure of array performance.