Introducing our researchers

5. Matt Lewis

Sêr Cymru Fellow, Quotient, Bangor University

Dr Matt Lewis is a Research Fellow at Bangor University, working on the Quotient Cluster. Quotient investigates how marine renewable energy devices interact with the environment, the resource (the currents and waves), and one-another. Using computer simulations of earth systems, Matt tries to relate key oceanographic processes, such as waves and tides, to marine renewable energy. Below he tells more about his research:

“Through my research, I try to answer the following key questions:

  • Where can marine renewable energy devices best be installed?
  • What would electricity contributions to the grid look like when including large amounts of renewable energy development?
  • In order to inform resilient and efficient design, what are the likely oceanographic conditions at tidal energy sites?

Matt speaking at Science & the Assembly in Cardiff. © James Davies_Royal Society of ChemistryEnergy security concerns and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions make the switch to low carbon energy sources necessary. The ocean represents a vast and untapped energy resource. If developed responsibly, there could be a sustainable source of renewable electricity generation, as well as a high-tech manufacturing industry. Tides are almost 100% predictable far into the future, and this reduces some of the challenges posed by other more intermittent forms of renewable energy, such as wind. It is this predictability that, with the correct development strategy, could allow a firm baseload of electricity generation equivalent to several nuclear power stations. However, potential negative impacts of developments and natural variability of the system must be understood, so that effective mitigation measures can be put in place.

At the moment, I am developing coupled wave-tide modelling techniques to understand realistic oceanographic conditions at marine energy sites. The density of seawater is such that large regions of UK tidal currents typically have the equivalent power of a gale-forced wind four times a day. This provides an excellent and sustainable resource, as well as associated engineering challenges. It is this interaction between the end-user, the environment, and the resource, which is the core-component of the Quotient Cluster’s research – hence the four research themes: (1) Resource assessment; (2) Optimisation; (3) Environmental impacts; and (4) Impacts of the environment on renewable energy devices.

Modelling global patterns in wave heightTo deliver on the objectives of the Cluster, I also collaborate with other Universities and organisations outside the Cluster, which is something strongly supported by the NRN-LCEE. The Network has provided me with support as an early career scientist, for example through the Research Development Fund, and allowed me to develop links with research groups at the UK Met Office, The National Grid and other UK Universities to write funding proposals and to help build a sustainable marine renewable energy research group in Wales. NRN-LCEE support has also allowed me to to build collaborations with CISRO in Tasmania and the US Department of Energy, and to disseminate my research findings around the world at several international conferences to date, including the World Renewable Energy Congress in Indonesia in September last year.

For my research, I am actively working with a wide variety of research groups and am keen to explore new collaborations on topics such as: understanding future changes to estuarine water quality; how the tides will change with future sea-level rise; and how ancient knowledge can create resilient behaviours and products for the future (e.g. ancient remedies that can replace antibiotic resistant infections, and the use of legends to understand extreme events).”