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

Researchers at the Australian Maritime College, a specialist institute of the University of Tasmania, will conduct field experiments with a 2.4m-wide prototype in partnership with Sydney-based developers MAKO Tidal Turbines.

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.

Australian Maritime College project lead Associate Professor Irene Penesis said tidal energy was completely predictable compared with solar and wind power due to its consistent cycles.

“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.”

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.

“Tidal is set to become a key part of the energy mix worldwide and our work here with AMC means Australia will continue to play a key role in this emerging global industry,” said MAKO Turbines managing director Douglas Hunt.

The project was support by an AusIndustry Innovation grant.