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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).
During this reporting period the set up of the model is almost completed. Now the model includes the general circulation, tides and waves. All three components were tested for at least one year (2014). The three components were then merged in one single model. Hence one important Milestone of the project is now reached: the set up of a model that reproduces the dynamics along the Tunisia coasts. The model is now running for 10 years. To test the model behavior over this long period (10 years) and to investigate the areas where marine energy is available from each type of the sea dynamics the model is run each component alone. A complete simulation with all components included will be done in a second step. As the model is time consuming it is expected that the simulations will last for at least one to two months.

Two project team students that were involved in the project as a Master of Science will continue as PhD students. They will continue to be involved in the project. Their primary task will be on the water general circulation and on waves. The PI and his team started writing a scientific paper on the role of the atmospheric forcing on the water dynamics along the Tunisia coasts using the model that is set up in frame of the project. The current-meter, the instrument that will be used to measure currents in situ to validate the model results, is now acquired. 

As mentioned in earlier reports the model is found to be time consuming. Efforts are being made to develop the parallel version. In addition we started the procedure to upgrade the computing system that was acquired in frame of the project to increase the model speed and also to ensure a complete and secure backup of all the stored data and results.

During the next 3-6 months, the model simulation for the 10-year period will be performed. The model will run each component alone and then all components included. To their knowledge only very few attempts were made to include all the three components in one single model. This will permit to obtain results as close to observations as possible.

The current measurements will start during the next period using the current-meter we purchased. It will be placed in two locations (the northern Monastir coasts and Cap Bon coasts). For each location, the instrument will be recovered after nearly one month and the stored data will be used to validate the model results. The final maps will be plotted based on the validated model results. The maps will include all information provided by the model (velocity, sea level, temperature, salinity) and the areas were dynamics are strong
enough to be used for energy generation.

Lastly, the tea started writing a scientific paper on the role of the atmospheric forcing on the sea dynamics along the Tunisia coasts. Partners from NOAA will be co-authors.

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