The University of Galway has reported the successful testing of an advanced marine hydrokinetic turbine foil. Developed by marine energy firm ORPC Ireland, headquartered in the US, the technology was fabricated by ÉireComposites, located in Inverin, Co Galway.

This testing milestone is a significant achievement within the framework of the €3.9 million CRIMSON project, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 initiative. The testing program involved 1.3 million fatigue cycles on the turbine foil, marking the highest number ever recorded for a full-scale marine energy component in dry laboratory conditions.

The tests were led by the Sustainable and Resilient Structures Research Group at University of Galway, which is part of the Enterprise Ireland-supported technology centre Construct Innovate and the University’s Ryan Institute.

The 5m-long foil, constructed from high-performance carbon fibre-reinforced polymer, is shaped akin to an airplane wing. When placed perpendicular to river or tidal currents, the foils spin under the force, generating clean, renewable energy through an underwater generator. Three of these foils are incorporated into each of the two turbines comprising the 80kW RivGen marine hydrokinetic energy device.

The foil underwent rigorous stress testing in the University’s Large Structures Testing Laboratory to demonstrate its ability to withstand operational loads over its design lifetime. A destructive static test was also performed to showcase its structural integrity at loads exceeding operational expectations in the marine environment.

Dr. William Finnegan, Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator of CRIMSON at the University of Galway, emphasized: “The findings from this full-scale structural testing program help to de-risk ORPC’s technology and give insights that can be used for structural health monitoring and inform the next generation of testing standards.”

“ÉireComposites is delighted that the turbine foils we manufactured have performed so well during testing,” added Tomás Flanagan, Chief Executive of ÉireComposites. “The foils have a complex helical shape and are challenging to manufacture; they are a credit to the engineers and technicians who worked on the project. We’re delighted to see our work with ORPC Ireland, University of Galway, and the other partners coming to fruition and we’re excited about the commercial potential for marine hydrokinetic devices in delivering clean, sustainable energy. At a time when global interest is focused on achieving a net-zero emission future, it is great to be making advances in the technology that supports this global shift.”

Patrick Cronin, Director of European Operations at ORPC Ireland, commented: “This important research is helping to maximize design efficiency and minimize power system costs as global demand for underwater renewable power systems continues to be strong.”

The test foil was designed by the team at ORPC Ireland and manufactured from a high-performance carbon fibre reinforced polymer by ÉireComposites, which are leading the CRIMSON Project, and incorporates recycled carbon-fibre material from Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials, Germany.

The next phase of the project will involve trialing the complete turbine in operational conditions at Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche’s large towing tank in Rome, Italy.