Thursday, November 05, 2009

MCT power curve - analysis

MCT has just published a power curve for its Seagen device in Strangford Narrows (see figure above and link here). The curve shows a period of output at the design capacity of 1.2 MW, in what is described as a “medium tide”. This tide appears to have peaked at 3.1 m/s, which may be medium for Strangford, but is pretty impressive for most sites.

We realised that it’s possible to drill into this curve to come up with some (very) theoretical ideas of the capacity factor which might be achieved by the technology. First we constructed a velocity lookup table by taking a ruler to the graph, which shows the power output (kW) at various stream speeds (m/s).

m/s - Power
0 - 0
1 - 20
1.25 - 100
1.5 - 180
1.75 - 400
2 - 600
2.25 - 900
2.4 - 1200

We then constructed a model which characterises a simplified tidal environment, with stream speed varying according to a diurnal cycle (sinusoidal variation over 24 hours, in 2 flood, 2 ebb tides) and a 28 day lunar cycle (again simple sinusoidal variation).

We entered a maximum stream speed (peak rate achieved at spring tide) and a minimum stream speed (peak rate achieved at neap tide) and constructed a lookup on an hour by hour basis to estimate the power output over a month.

Based on a maximum stream speed of 3.2 m/s and a minimum stream speed of 1.6 m/s (ie neap maximum is half as fast as spring maximum), we find that the average theoretical power output (assuming no outages) to be 450 kW, making the capacity factor 38%.

The model shows that output is sensitive to both maximum stream speed and the ratio between spring and neap peak rates. The table below shows the relationship between capacity factor and the maximum stream speed) assuming that neaps are limited to 50% of the maximum stream speed in springs. The month-average capacity factor for various maximum spring stream speeds is:

m/s - CF (%)
2.8 - 28%
3 - 34%
3.2 - 38%
3.5 - 45%
4 - 53%
The table below shows how the capacity factor is influenced by the ratio between the maximum neap speed and the maximum spring speed based on a maximum spring stream speed of 3.2 m/s. The table shows maximum neap speed and month-average capacity factor.

m/s - CF (%)
0.8 - 31%
1.2 - 33%
1.6 - 38%
2.1 - 45%
2.4 - 48%

All of these power output estimates are wildly theoretical – and should be treated with extreme caution. Next we’re going to combine this power curve with some actual tidal data from tidal diamonds on charts to see how that looks.