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British engineer works to secure cost effective tidal power


A British engineer believes he can secure cost effective tidal power by innovatively placing existing turbine designs inside large bore underwater pipes. Don Cutler’s view is that it’s best to use everything that’s standard. "You don’t re-invent the wheel you improve it."

"Sea water is a most aggressive environment, but using modern materials like carbon fibres, and Teflon, are about the only clever things about my design," he says. Cutler’s design is specifically aimed at taking advantage of straight tides. "With a tide running at 5-6 knots you can get all the power you need," he says. Cutler plans to use oilrig technology to secure his pipe based turbine structures to the seabed. "In order to maximise the tidal power I have five long tubes leading to the turbines, with fish deflectors," he says.

His idea is to prove his concept with a 50ft (15.24m) long pipe, which would be 5ft (1.524m) in diameter. He believes this would produce 1 kilowatt of power. Scaling this up to a pipe with a bore of 100ft (30.48m) would generate 6 megawatts of power based on peak spring tides. Cutler thinks, on average, though this size pipe would generate between 1 and 1.5 megawatts. "Once the water is in the pipe it has nowhere else to go. You need the pipe to constrain the water," he says.

Cutler, who founded the former multi-million pound Weymouth-based engineering company Tekflo, has a history in marine design. Tekflo developed equipment for water systems and North Sea oilrigs, and Cutler sold the business in the 1980s.

Cutler entered the world of tidal power engineering because Portland Harbor, in Dorset where he lives, was the proposed site for a wind farm. The plan was to locate the wind farm on the harbor and not 10 miles out at sea which Cutler believed would have been a better option, so he decided to design an alternative. He also argues tides are predictable whereas wind isn’t.

Cutler is looking to form an association with an existing company that has some experience of securing the finance for such projects.

Makeda Scott | EurekAlert!
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