Utilising the flexible generation potential of tidal range power plants to optimise economic value

Freddie Harcourt, Athanasios Angeloudis, Matthew D. Piggott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tidal range renewable power plants have the capacity to deliver predictable energy to the electricity grid, subject to the known variability of the tides. Tidal power plants inherently feature advantages that characterise hydro-power more generally, including a lifetime exceeding alternative renewable energy technologies and relatively low Operation & Maintenance costs. Nevertheless, the technology is typically inhibited by the significant upfront investment associated with capital costs. A key aspect that makes the technology stand out relative to other renewable options is the partial flexibility it possesses over the timing of power generation. In this study we provide details on a design methodology targeted at the optimisation of the temporal operation of a tidal range energy structure, specifically the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon that has been proposed within the Bristol Channel, UK. Apart from concentrating on the classical incentive of maximising energy, we formulate an objective functional in a manner that promotes the maximisation of income for the scheme from the Day-Ahead energy market. Simulation results demonstrate that there are opportunities to exploit the predictability of the tides and flexibility over the precise timing of power generation to incur a noticeable reduction in the subsidy costs that are often negotiated with regulators and governments. Additionally, we suggest that this approach should enable tidal range energy to play a more active role in ensuring security of supply in the UK. This is accentuated by the income-based optimisation controls that deliver on average more power over periods when demand is higher. For the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon case study a 23% increase is observed in the income obtained following the optimisation of its operation compared to a non-adaptive operation. Similarly, a 10% increase relative to an energy-maximisation approach over a year’s operation suggests that simply maximising energy generation in a setting where power prices vary may not be an optimal strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-884
JournalApplied Energy
Issue number2019
Early online date15 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


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