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Using western boundary currents to generate electricity: resource characterisation, technical & practical constraints

To reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, it is crucial that we continue to explore renewable energy resources and technologies. It is possible to convert the kinetic energy that resides in ocean currents into electricity by installing arrays of turbines, and the global potential of this energy resource is vast. In contrast to (twice daily) tides that are characterized by fortnightly variability, large-scale ocean currents like the Gulf Stream are relatively persistent features. In the west of ocean basins, these currents are intensified into “western boundary currents” – relatively persistent fast-flowing currents concentrated in the upper part of the water column that could be suitable for electricity generation. This project will make use of existing datasets (including satellite data) and numerical models to compare and contrast the strength and variability of these western boundary currents from an electricity generation perspective, and to compare them, from a grid perspective, with the variability of other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The project will be supervised by Dr Simon Neill – one of the world’s leading experts in marine renewable energy resource characterization, and an ocean modeller. You will be trained in and have access to a supercomputer to run your own model simulations, in addition to investigating existing model outputs and observational data. You will receive advanced training in time series analysis, and receive training in oceanography and energy systems, with ample budget to attend international conferences where you can discuss your research with world experts. The skills acquired during this PhD will develop you into a highly trained and numerate scientist, leading to exciting career opportunities across a range of disciplines (ocean science, renewable energy systems, and high performance computing).

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Physics, Mathematics, Oceanography, Energy Engineering, or Civil Engineering.

For further details, please contact Dr Simon Neill in the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University