Tidal power to be trialled in Queensland coal port

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Sydney-based MAKO Tidal Turbines to undertake six month demonstration of its renewable energy technology at Gladstone Port.

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Renewable tidal energy technology is set to be tested in one of Australia’s biggest coal ports in Gladstone, Queensland, marking the latest development in that region’s rapid shift to renewables that has been led by a number of significant utility-scale solar projects.

Sydney-based MAKO Tidal Turbines (MTT) and Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) say they are set to undertake a six month tidal turbine demonstration at the port, to investigate how tidal power could contribute to Australia’s future energy mix.

The trial, expected to start in August, will be based on a MAKO turbine installed at GPC’s Barney Point Terminal, MTT says.

MAKO Turbines – a runner-up in the 2016 Australian Technologies Competition – has so far trialled its technology in the Tamar River, Tasmania, as well as in demonstration projects in Papua New Guinea and Singapore.

MAKO was also part of an ARENA-backed project, led by the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania, to map the nation’s most promising tidal resources.

The company says its technology has the advantage of being able to be driven by rivers, canals and ocean currents and, given tidal flows can be accurately forecast years in advance, of offering a reliable source energy, suitable for grid integration or coupling with battery storage.

MTT CEO Douglas Hunt said the Gladstone Port, largely used for shipping Australian coal and gas, was an ideal testing site for the clean energy turbines.

“By using existing structures at GPC’s wharves, similar to those found around the world, MAKO tidal turbines can be installed cost-effectively and in much shorter timeframes than if floating or seabed mounting systems were used,” he said in comments on Tuesday.

“GPC is an ideal partner, with the necessary combination of vision and expertise to deploy our unique MAKO tidal turbine system in a commercial setting.”

GPC CEO Peter O’Sullivan said the Corporation was excited to be partnering with MAKO to explore the turbine’s capabilities.

“GPC has long recognised the potential to extract energy from the tides in Gladstone and we are pleased to now be able to investigate this further as we continue on our pathway to a sustainable future.”

As we have reported, Gladstone is home to Queensland’s largest coal generator, the 43-year-old Gladstone Power Station, which has a nameplate capacity of 1680MW, and is scheduled to be retired in the late 2020s.

But a number of major large-scale solar projects – in various stages of the development pipeline – are starting to shift the region’s focus to renewables.

Those projects include the 350MW Raglan Solar Farm (see map below) proposed by Eco Energy World, which won council approval in May, and the $500 million 300MW Aldoga solar farm, being proposed by Spanish renewables giant Acciona Energy through a 30-year lease with the state government.

Another, which was submitted to council in April this year, is a 300MW solar farm proposed for land in Rodds Bay, about one hour south of the Gladstone city centre, by Renew Estate – a joint venture between German-based Wirsol Company and local outfit Beast Solutions.

The tidal project is something new to the region, however, and one of the first such trials of the technology in the country.

Fellow Australian tidal energy company, Atlantis Resources – which has shifted its home base to Singapore – last year claimed a world record production output for a tidal stream power station it is testing in Scotland’s Pentland Firth.

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11 Comments
  1. MaxG 10 months ago

    This technology would have the same constraints as wind turbines; e.g. minimum current to start generating; it would be similar in size; e.g. the turbine shown does 2kW/h max.? The propeller shown does not match the ideal on their website; which also lacks any technical information about their capability.

    • Shilo 10 months ago

      In queensland waters you would need some serious paint to stop growth on the blades. (Yes even if the are moving all the time)
      The waters are to full of sea life that quickly build up.

      • john 10 months ago

        Obviously they know that old mate

    • Mark Diesendorf 10 months ago

      Sizes of tidal current turbines and wind turbines are not in general the same for the same power output. Power P in a stream of fluid (e.g. air or water) is proportional to fluid density d, swept area A and cube of fluid speed v. Thus:
      P = k d A v**3, where k is a constant.
      The density of water is roughly 1000 times the density of air, so the area A and hence blade diameter of a water turbine can be much smaller than that of a wind turbine, for the same power output. However, we have to take into account that tidal stream speeds will be generally much lower than typical wind speeds.

      Wind and water turbines are rated in terms of maximum power output, e.g. 2 kW. Power equals energy divided by time; conversely, energy = power multiplied by time. A 2 kW turbine operating for one hour converts 2 kWh of energy, not 2 kW/h. Apologies for being pedantic, but it’s important to get the basic concepts right.

      • MaxG 10 months ago

        No hard feelings; love being authoritatively corrected. Thanks for that 🙂
        So, what is your stance on this technology then? Can you see it being useful scaled up?

        • Mark Diesendorf 10 months ago

          Yes, in specific places where tidal currents or river currents are strong. I understand there is a possible site near Darwin. Overseas, a powerful current called Kuroshio runs up the east coast of Taiwan to Japan. However, the water is deep and so tethering it and bringing its power ashore in Taiwan would be very difficult..

      • Alastair Leith 10 months ago

        Is the cost of tethering the turbines really so great that having the pier pylons to fix to makes all the difference in getting this up as a commercial project not just a kite flying exercise?

  2. john 10 months ago

    North of Gladstone there are tidal difference of a maximum of 7 Meters perhaps they should look at that.
    While it may be 100 or less Kms from a major transmission line the fact there are larger energy resources should be looked at.

  3. john 10 months ago

    Looking at the generator for water flow this is a small scale type of system you would use in a river or a creek to supply your house.
    Perhaps go look at the Paronella Park which was built in the 1930’s to supply electricity to the project.
    I think it is time to step up from the 1930’s to the 2020’s.
    Build a large scale generator system utilizing large tidal flow north of Gladstone this is a joke project frankly.

    • MaxG 10 months ago

      They have much bigger turbines, a whole bunch of them could do some good. But based on the limited information I could gather, I can’t see this being economically viable. (Admittedly just a hunch.)

  4. Dave Straton 10 months ago

    One site to consider would be Strong Tide Passage, between Townsend Island and the mainland; part of the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area about 100 km north of Yeppoon.

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