Free-flowing water currents such as tides and unregulated water courses could contribute to world electricity production given the emergence of robust technical solutions for extracting the energy. At Uppsala University, a concept for converting the energy in water currents to electricity using a vertical axis turbine with fixed blade-pitch and a direct-drive permanent magnet generator is studied.
Technological equipment for extracting energy from water currents can be studied at desktop to some extent, but physical realizations, first in a laboratory setting, and later in a natural aquatic setting, are necessary. For this reason, a laboratory generator has been constructed and evaluated, and an experimental setup comprising turbine, generator and control system has been constructed. The turbine and generator are to be deployed in the Dalälven River in Söderfors, and operated from an on-land control station. The author has worked with constructing and evaluating the low-speed laboratory generator, participated in the design and construction of the Söderfors generator, and designed and constructed the control system for Söderfors.
The generator design incorporates a low rotational speed, permanent magnets, and many poles, in order to adapt the generator to the nature of water currents. Simulations and experimental data for the laboratory prototype have been compared and show that the simulation tool used is adequate for design studies of this type of generator. The generator has also been shown to be able to operate with the intended turbine design and range of water velocities. The control system to be used in Söderfors has been tested in a laboratory environment. Simulations of the control system show that it should be able to operate the turbine and generator at the desired rotational speeds in water velocities up to about 1.8 m/s. Simulations of the system have also shown that maximizing system power output may not correspond with maximizing turbine power.