Small tidal turbine in Gladstone has big potential
FOR four months a small tidal power generator has been quietly spinning away under Barney Point Wharf providing enough power each day to run a small house.
The turbine was installed in November last year as part of a six-month trial investigating how tidal flows at the Port of Gladstone can be harnessed to produce power.
GPC sustainability specialist Richard Haward said while there was no commitment to stage two of the trial yet, which would include two turbines able to swivel and capture all tidal movements, the initial results were promising.
"But we have learned this type of turbine would be ideal to power small island villages,"
"Particularly a place like Heron Island which is an eco-resort looking at ways to reduce their dependence on diesel power generation."
now past the half-way point of the trial, it had produced some exciting results.
"This is only a small unit and is fixed in place so it can only run on two of four tidal movements," he said.
Mr Haward said Gladstone Harbour inspired him to try the tidal generator.
"When I started three years ago I recall looking out the window and seeing the big tidal movements running through the harbour and thought, 'Surely there must be a way of harnessing that energy?'" he said.
"The GPC spends millions every year on electricity, so if we could supplement some of our energy costs through renewables it was definitely worth investigating.
"We don't have a stable wind supply to build a wind farm on Facing Island, but we've got the waterways, we can predict with excellent accuracy the size and times of the harbours' tides and tidal generators aren't affected by the weather."
Upmost in Mr Haward's mind was the potential impact the spinning turbine blades could have on marine life.
"To protect dolphins and dugongs I wanted to fit a cage around it," he said.
"But cages quickly clog up with seaweed which clogs the water flow to the turbine.
"We ended up reducing the speed of the turbine's rotation and fitted numerous cameras around it to monitor marine life interactions.
"In the first month we began to ramp the speed up to the maximum 30 rpm which is how fast the tides move the blades.
"The cameras showed the fish have plenty of time to move out of the way."