Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is tidal energy?
A: Tidal energy involves converting a portion of the energy in moving water into electrical or other forms of energy. Tidal energy can harness the energy in ocean tides, estuaries, canals, rivers or tail-races. No dams or barrages need be built to accommodate tidal energy devices.
Q: Is tidal energy similar to wave power generation?
A: While both may be located in the ocean and coasts, they are two entirely different technologies. Wave energy harnesses the rapid vertical movement of water or the pressure changes which occur when waves move across the ocean. Tidal energy is reliant on the horizontal movement of water which is not weather dependent and is 100% predictable.
Q:. How does tidal energy generate electricity?
A: Flowing water contains a great deal of kinetic energy. Just two cubic metres of water weighs around the same as an average car so imagine the energy in a tidal flow several kilometres wide or in a large river. Tidal energy involves the blades of a turbine converting a small proportion of this vast kinetic energy into mechanical energy to drive a generator which produces electricity.
Q: Most renewable energy sources experience interruptions because of climatic conditions. What electricity generation downtime may occur with tidal energy?
A: Two high and two low tides occur every 24 hours and 50 minutes. The tidal velocity is at its maximum around the mid-point between high and low tides whereas at the high and low tide, the water is stationary. In tidal locations, the "capacity factor" (the percentage of time a turbine will extract its maximum output) is around 50% - but predictable years in advance. In rivers, canals and tailraces the capacity factor is 100%.
Q: What speed of water flow is necessary to drive a tidal turbine?
A: The amount of power produced by a tidal turbine increases by the cube of the velocity of the water in which it operates. Under a complicated formula derived by Albert Betz, doubling the velocity of water will increase power output by 8 times. The MAKO is an extremely efficient design which is capable of generating cost-effective electricity, even in very slow flowing water. This means the MAKO is ideally suitied to the vast majority of sites around the world which flow between 1.5 and 2.5 metres per second.
Q: How many houses can be powered by a MAKO?
A: The average Australian household consumes 18.1 kilowatt hours of electricity each day. In a slow flowing canal, a single mini-MAKO will produce enough electricity to power a home or with multiple turbines, enough for a farm or business. The larger midi-MAKO turbines in deeper tidal locations at moderate flow velocity will produce enough power for 40 households or larger businesses, including tourism resorts. The largest MAKO turbines will produce enough power for 750 households and when deployed in arrays will be a significant contributor of predictable electricity for a grid.
Q. Is there potential for the widespread use of tidal turbines in Australia?
A: The only resource required by tidal turbines is a predictable flow of water. Therefore, anywhere in Australia where these conditions exist may be an appropriate site. The MAKO can operate efficiently in slower flowing water which further expands the potential tidal energy sites right around Australia and overseas.
Q: Is it possible to install tidal turbines in arrays for large-scale electricity generation?
A: Some tidal turbines have been designed specifically for use as either stand-alone systems or in multiples to form an array that will satisfy a range of power generation requirements.
Q: What is the future potential for tidal arrays?
A: There are many areas globally where tidal arrays would provide an efficient and assured source of electricity for communities and industries.
Work is currently being undertaken on evaluating different tidal array systems.
Q: What is the major characteristic of tidal or water flow force?
A: Water is 832 times more dense than air when measured at the same speed, therefore even a relatively slow movement of water pressure has the strength to drive the blades of a well-designed and efficient tidal turbine.
Q: Is tidal energy generation different to other forms of turbines?
A: Electricity produced by all turbines is the interaction between a stator and a rotor. This applies regardless of the energy source for turning the turbine – gas/steam, coal-fired/steam, wind or tidal force.
Tidal generation is predictable, clean, renewable and efficient because the natural force to drive the turbines is constant, powerful, and exists without the input and cost of any kind of fuel.
Q: What is the MAKO?
A: The MAKO is a cost-effective electricity generation system design for deployment in the widest range of water flow rates to bring completely predictable, clean renewable energy to communities currently producing electricity from expensive and inefficient diesel or other fuel fired generators.
Q: What are the key performance features required for a tidal turbine?
A: The design must be robust and have blades which sufficiently strong to withstand high forces. A tidal turbine needs to produce productive electricity levels in slow tidal flows.
The MAKO has a unique bulb design which creates greater acceleration and efficiency, even in tidal flows as low as 2.5 metres per second. It also needs to maintain high efficiency in turbulent water so that it may be deployed in channels and other aggressive locations.
Q: With a tidal turbine located under seawater, does this represent a challenge in terms of corrosion and the likelihood of wear on parts?
A: Both saline and fresh water represents a challenging environment for any electro-mechanical device. Thanks to the latest advances in precision engineering and composite materials, submerged turbines are extremely robust and designed to operate in this harsh environment.
The design of the MAKO turbine for example, enables long-term uninterrupted operation and in the event of any part failure, the turbine may be quickly replaced and repaired.
Q: What impact do tidal turbines have on marine life?
A: Some Tidal turbines are less environmentally intrusive than others, both in terms of size, location and mode of deployment. Compact turbines such as the MAKO have blades which are similar to those of watercraft, which have not been found to cause disruption of marine life. Where appropriate, blade guards may be fitted for additional protection of marine mammals.
Major installations such as barrages and tidal lagoons have involved detailed studies of both marine life and other potential impacts.
Q. Why was the State of Tasmania and the Launceston region location?
A: For two reasons; proximity to a suitable tidal estuary site and to be near the Australian Maritime College (AMC).
AMC is a specialist institute of the University of Tasmania a national leader in marine and maritime-related research into marine conservation and resource.
This organisation has access to moorings in the Tamar river and has marine environment research facilities for maritime engineering and hydrodynamics, that includes a cavitation research laboratory, model test basin and towing tank.
Q: What approvals have been received from regulatory authorities to carry out testing the Tamar River?
A: The Australian Maritime College (AMC) has received the necessary approvals from marine authorities Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST) and TasPorts to conduct this research.
Support for the project has also been received from the regional natural resource management body, NRM North.
Q: Is this a new area of potential expertise for Tasmania?
A: The testing program enables AMC to gain knowledge about operating factors influencing the success of tidal generation technology. Findings will be applied to other potential tidal energy sites.
Through the testing program, AMC is acquiring vital information about the performance of tidal turbines in open water, their environmental effects and demonstration of minimal environmental impact on the marine ecology.
Q: What is the key outcome of the test site in Tasmania’s Tamar river?
A: The Tamar site will enable development of a full “water to power point” solution for Asia/Pacific countries. Solutions deriving from testing the MAKO may be deployed throughout tropical islands; remote locations in Australia and coastal villages in Asia.
Q: What other testing in sea conditions has been conducted?
A: Testing of a full-scale MAKO tidal turbine was first carried out in 2015 by a full engineering team over several days in separate sessions on Sydney Harbour. These tests used the special deployment barge and a tug facility to replicate a range of typical tidal flow conditions.
Tests have validated the ability of the MAKO turbine to produce electricity in varying flow rates.
Q: How and why did MAKO Turbines associate with AMC?
A: AMC has a reputation for being Australia’s prominent body in maritime research and is best positioned to test and validate the design and performance of the MAKO turbine.
Q: When will MAKO turbines be available for installation in customers’ locations?
A: Final testing of production models will be completed in the last quarter of 2016 and performance specifications will be published at that time.
Electricity users wishing to explore a MAKO turbine solution should register their interest to benefit from early adoption incentives that may be available, depending on location and electricity demands.
Q: How many different models of MAKO turbines are available?
A: The current range includes the MAKO 400 which is designed to operate in canals; the MAKO 1100 works in relatively shallow water such as found in tailraces. The MAKO 2400 operates in typical coastal or estuarine tidal applications.
Q: What are the supply options? For example, does MAKO sell turnkey equipment/electricity generation or provide electricity supply?
A: MAKO Turbines is able to provide either a fully integrated, customised tidal turbine system, or is able to install a system under a supply agreement.
Q: When was MAKO Turbines established?
A: MAKO Turbines Pty Ltd was established in 2013.
Q: Who owns MAKO Turbines?
A: MAKO Turbines Pty Ltd is a registered Australian corporation owned by private shareholders who are committed to advancing the cause of improving the living standards of people by bringing clean, affordable electricity to communities around the world.
Q: Where is the MAKO produced?
A: The development, engineering and manufacturing facility is in Alexandria, an inner city commercial centre in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Q: What facilities and resources are required to produce the MAKO turbine?
A: Manufacture of the MAKO turbine requires high precision engineering, an experienced and skilled team of engineers and technicians and components made from materials such as advanced aerospace-standard alloys and composites. The manufacturing process is based on the latest generation computer-controlled lathes and robotics.
Q: Does the MAKO corporation offer investment opportunities?
A: Investors wishing to be part of this exciting new technology may register their interest by completing the enquiry form on the Contact page of this web site.
Q: Has the innovation community recognised the unique technology and design of the MAKO turbine?
A: MAKO Turbines have been selected as a Semi-Finalist in the 2016 Australian Technology Competition.