A tidal energy turbine has been installed in the Tamar estuary as part of a project to investigate and optimise the device’s performance.

Researchers at the Australian Maritime College will conduct field experiments with the 2.4 metre-wide prototype in partnership with Sydney-based developers MAKO Tidal Turbines.

With Tasmania seen as a location with huge renewable energy potential, the site near Reid Rock (north of the Batman Bridge) was selected because of the ideal speed of the current.

The turbine is secured beneath a floating platform and connected to a mooring on the east side of the estuary.

AMC project lead, Associate Professor Irene Penesis, said tidal energy was a particularly exciting form of renewable energy, and completely predictable compared with solar and wind power.

“Tidal energy technologies extract energy from marine currents and tidal movements. This energy can then be converted into electrical power,” Associate Professor Penesis said.

“We want to monitor the effects of this particular project, but also understand the processes so we can apply the findings to other potential tidal energy sites.

“Tidal power has the capacity to generate electricity that could become part of the energy mix for local industries, small communities, coasts and islands.”

Having undertaken extensive tow tank testing with AMC, MAKO Tidal Turbines will be undertaking research into how full-scale turbines operate in a real-world environment, and to confirm their low environmental impact.

The testing will include the influence of turbulence and biofouling (organisms growing on the turbine), which may impede performance and affect the longevity of the device.

MAKO Turbine’s Managing Director, Douglas Hunt said tidal energy was set to become a key part of the energy mix worldwide.