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Cycle 5 (2016 Deadline)

Potential of currents along the Tunisia coasts for renewable power generation

PI: Ali Harzallah (, National Institute of Marine Science and Technologies (INSTM)
U.S. Partner: Wassila Thiaw, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Project dates: December 2016 - November 2019

Project Overview:

The project will develop a high-resolution modeling system for marine waters along the Tunisia coasts (Central Mediterranean) using NOAA atmospheric and oceanic forcing fields. The modeling system will provide maps of the marine areas where ocean energy can be potentially used for power generation. The project will provide information on the circulation of water masses along and off the Tunisian coasts. In particular, information on circulation veins (the Atlantic vein, modulated by atmospheric conditions) will be provided for the first time at a high resolution. Additionally, water temperature and salinity maps will be developed, which are important for several of Tunisia’s economic sectors. The model results will be validated by direct observations in the sea using NOAA analytical tools. Once set up, the modeling system will constitute an important modeling platform for marine studies at INSTM.

Results from the project will provide information that may help in the creation of renewable energy alternatives by the Tunisia Electricity Company. Such information combined with that from tides and waves will be of interest for several economic applications, such as implementation of off-shore aquaculture cages, a rapidly increasing activity in Tunisia, and impact studies of coastal infrastructure implementation (e.g., the impact of highly concentrated salt brine from desalinization plants). The INSTM research team will gain knowledge on the use of high-resolution ocean models forced by atmospheric fields (weather and climate) and ocean models/outputs provided by NOAA. The project is a valuable opportunity for building the capacity at INSTM. PhDs, Master's students, and engineers at INSTM will be involved in the project and will ensure the sustainability of such a combined modeling-observation approach at the institution.

Summary of Recent Activities: 

5-195 US Partner Modeling
The team reviews the project models with Dr. Vintzileos during his visit (photo courtesy of Dr. Harzallah).
As of the reporting period April to June 2018, the research team has a functioning model which reproduces the water circulation along the Tunisia coasts for the year 2014. The forcing with two ocean fields (the RTOFs data from NOAA/EMC and the MED16 data from Copernicus) permitted the team to compare the role of the two forces. A general agreement between the two data sets was found. The model validation continued particularly focused on water general circulation and the team members prepared the 10-year long simulation covering the period 2008-2017. This simulation will provide the main data base needed for the project. The tide and waves components of the model were run experimentally in a stand-alone configuration and after validation, they will be included in the circulation model. The team is also conducting an evaluation of the potential of marine energy with results showing some locations in northern Tunisia that have relatively strong currents and could be potential sites for marine energy development. The PEER project has also focused on including students and is constituted by one PhD student in charge of setting up of the high resolution model with specific focus on the eastern Tunisia marine area; and three Master of Science students in charge of tide and wave components. As a result of receiving a USG partner travel supplement, Dr. Augustin Vintzileos from the Univeristy of Maryland was able to visit the team in Tunisia. There, he met with the project team to discuss the project, and provide a number of training sessions, both for the team and for a wider audience at INSTM. He also presented on the atmospheric forecasts and their effects on the marine environment.

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