Lighting Up Lives with Current Waves

By tapping marine current energy, a team of scientists from the Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), is attempting to light up the lives of people living in remote islands of India.

After successfully generating of electricity from its wave turbine deployed at near Rutland Island in Andaman, the scientists from the Energy and Fresh Water group of the Institute will soon start the fabrication of a 1 kW hydrokinetic turbine.

The turbine at near Rutland Island yielded 300W power and lit up an array of bulbs, marking the beginning of a successful era in power generation.

The turbine was developed with off-grid applications in mind, like powering remote islands and coastal settlements, where the only source of energy is diesel generators.

Power from the renewable energy source like waves is clean and environment-friendly one. Now the focus is to scale up the capacity of the turbines, said Satheesh C. Shenoi, director of the Institute.

Islands like Andaman and Lakshadweep depend on diesel generators for electricity. Inside the mainland, remote areas such as Sundarbans are also looking for power sources. Marine energy can be a viable answer for the clean and green energy needs of these places, said Purnima Jalihal, Head of the group.

India in general has lower wave, current and wind climate compared to the northern latitudes and it is a challenge to design turbines suited for these conditions. A three-bladed turbine was designed, fabricated and tested in a towing tank and in an open outfall channel at the North Chennai Thermal Power Station before being taken to Andaman, said Ms. Jalihal in a communication.

The speed of the ocean current varied between 0.3 metre per second and 3 metre per second at the site. The speed varies with seasons, climate and ocean depth.

The turbine fixed on a movable floating platform designed for the open sea trials and positioned at a depth of two metres below the mean sea level. Solar photovoltaic panels were used to charge the battery for powering the instruments used in the system. Barring the alternator, all other components were indigenously designed and fabricated, she said.

The turbine has been successfully producing 100 W since the day it was deployed and the power thus generated is enough to light a small household. The unit that was deployed at Andaman costs around Rs. 2 lakh and it’s the first such attempt in the country, Dr. Jalihal said.

Armed with the technological know-how and oceanographic aspects of ocean current turbines, the NIOT is planning to develop turbine of 1-5kW capacity. For generating 1 kW power, at least three smaller turbine units would have to be deployed, she said.

It may take at least one decade for the units to become feasible for power generation needs of mainland. However, they are ideal for far-off places like Andaman Islands which are geographically cut-off from the mainland, said Dr. Shenoi.

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