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Engineers hoping to harness energy from tidal currents

SINGAPORE — Harnessing energy from tidal currents to generate electricity as a new source of renewable energy. This is what engineers from the Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Energy Research Institute (ERI@N) hope to test out with a tidal turbine system, the first of its kind in Singapore, launched today (Nov 6) at the Sentosa Boardwalk.

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SINGAPORE — Harnessing energy from tidal currents to generate electricity as a new source of renewable energy. This is what engineers from the Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Energy Research Institute (ERI@N) hope to test out with a tidal turbine system, the first of its kind in Singapore, launched today (Nov 6) at the Sentosa Boardwalk.

Established in collaboration with the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), the Boardwalk Turbine Project took more than two years to come to fruition.

Noting that unlike conventional renewable energy sources like solar — which can be affected by cloud conditions — Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, Executive Director of ERI@N, said tides are an “extremely predictable” renewable energy source as they are “completely defined by the phases of the moon”.

In contrast with conventional tidal turbines which work “inefficiently at lower (water) flow”, the test bed, comprising two low-flow turbines, had been designed to operate at a “good efficiency range” at low water speeds common in Singapore’s waters as well as those in the region, explained Dr Michael Lochinvar Sim Abundo, a Research Fellow at ERI@N.

The turbines — which extract and capture tidal energy from the currents that, in turn, generates power — are mounted near the boardwalk on a floating platform.

Concrete pillars at an adjacent bridge help speed up water flows that power the turbines by funnelling water into a narrow channel. The team plans to extend the turbines to Pulau Semakau and the Southern Islands, including the Saint John’s Island and Pulau Tekukor, over the next five years.

The test bed currently powers the lights and an LCD display at the Sentosa Boardwalk Turbine Exhibit. Located near the turnstiles leading into Resorts World Sentosa, the exhibit provides information on the project and tidal energy, and is open to the public.

Prof Mhaisalkar said the data amassed from the test bed — which is jointly funded by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, NTU and SDC — will allow NTU engineers to enhance turbine designs for future projects.

“This turbine here (on Sentosa) is very symbolic in the sense (that) this is basically a message that we can explore other forms of renewable energy for Singapore as well,” he said.

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