Ross Vennell is a man who pursues a challenge. It is a physical oceanographer at the University of Otago, which means that works to understand the physics of the ocean, from tidal energy to climate change. “I am a physicist / mathematician. I am a dyslexic mathematician who can not contribute anything to save my life but I come to work for a reason and that is to create material. In society we need people who feel driven by creativity, whether in the field of arts, sciences or industry “.
Ross is currently investigating how to generate electricity from ocean currents, “it is a bit like having wind turbines under water”. New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to extract energy from the ocean and Ross is trying to estimate how much energy we can get from the turbines.
“The faster we can get data, the more we will be able to use, the more analysis can be made, the greater the scope of the project”.
Scientists need to answer these questions, not only in New Zealand but around the world. Ross sums up the problem: ” We need energy sources other than those from coal and we need them fast.”
The tidal energy potential is huge. “At the upper limit, the Cook Strait could provide power to two New Zelandas. In a practical sense, probably get 10% of that and still, it would provide energy to Auckland or two, so the scale of the we can get to get is amazing. “
With all this potential, many countries around the world have invested in turbines, especially in the UK. But before investing we know how much energy we can get, says Ross. “It’s like any new technology, initially costs a lot of money, and I’m working on: is it worth?”
It is very hard to imagine what can happen, he says. “We only have one earth and we can not replicate a million times to run them all in parallel to simulate what can happen.” But Ross and his students build virtual models to understand how the future might look.
These virtual models will soon move to Nesi supercomputer to work with hundreds of different variations. Ross REANNZ use the network for supercomputers and then again move large amounts of data from Nesi to college to be analyzed. To make this work, it is essential to have a network that is fast and reliable. “The faster we can get data, the more we will be able to use, the more analysis can be made, the greater the scope of the project”. Ross describes access to new data like opening Christmas presents “is the enthusiasm: what I will find”
The University of Otago is working with scientists around the world in this project. Some of them evaluate the environmental impact of the project. For example, the impact it may have on marine animals and whether it will affect their movement through the area. Another study turbine blades to develop blades that can bend angle and to optimize best results.
It is a complex project, but its potential is what keeps Ross committed to it. “I grew up sailing and thus began my journey to become an oceanographer and he felt a deep need to know why the ocean moves. I can imagine a future in which a lot of energy Cook Strait is generated and the machines washing dishes can be programmed according to the currents instead of the day or night. Depending on the location where the currents are directed in the Cook Strait, you can get electricity at lower cost. we can live our lives to the rhythm of the currents , which would be great from the point of view of an oceanographer. “
Tidal energy is not only complicated and “great” at the same time, but may also arise products derived from models created by Ross and his team. “There are so many things that people could do with these different ways of looking at the world. Every time you look at the world in a way a little different you learn something you could not have learned from the way you looked before.
Perhaps one of these products leading to Ross to his new project. “I consider myself a serial obsessive. Since 2010 I have devoted only turbines ocean currents and may no longer do more for two or three years. Students and graduates continue to advance in this project but I will try thinking about something else. “
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