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Brian Polagye

Brian Polagye - Associate Professor

Co-Director, Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center
Affiliate Investigator, Applied Physics Laboratory

Brian Polagye

Contact Information

  • Office: MEB 302
  • Phone: 206-543-7544
  • Fax: 206-685-8047
  • Email:


  • PhD Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2009
  • MSME Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2005
  • BSE Mechanical Engineering, Princeton University, 2000

Interest Group

  • Energy and Fluids


My research focuses on sustainable electricity generation from marine renewable energy, particularly tidal current energy.

Characterizing Tidal Energy Resources

Maximizing power generation at a tidal energy site requires information about the hydrokinetic resource at spatial scales ranging from less than a meter to tens of kilometers and time scales ranging from fractions of a second to years. An improved understanding of the resource at these scales is gained by developing new site survey techniques, models to predict deterministic and stochastic components of the tidal resource, and methodologies to analyze collected data. This information is used by site developers to estimate long-term power generation potential and device developers to estimate design loads.

Tidal Energy Sustainability

A renewable resource is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for sustainable power generation. Research in this area seeks to ensure the sustainability of tidal energy by improving our understanding of environmental effects in a way that can influence engineering decisions related to turbine design. This is accomplished through a combination of field studies, instrumentation development, and modeling. Specific areas of interest are in the acoustic effects of tidal energy, interactions between marine life and tidal turbines at close range, and the consequences of energy removal on estuarine systems.

Instrumentation Micropower

Long-term monitoring of tidal energy sites is constrained by the power available to operate instrumentation. This limits the type of instrumentation that can be deployed and the maximum duration of observations. Given that the average resource intensity within a meter of the seabed generally exceeds 500 W/m2 at tidal energy sites, micropower generators with swept areas on the order of 1 m2 incorporated into instrumentation packages could significantly enhance monitoring capabilities. We are developing a self-contained, micro-scale tidal generation system capable of meeting a continuous load of 20 W via a small, rechargeable battery bank. This system is also of sufficient scale to investigate a number of engineering challenges for utility-scale (i.e., rated capacity greater than 1 MW) systems, including control algorithms to maximize power production in turbulent flows.

Selected Publications

  • Polagye, B. and J. Thomson, A leading-order noise correction for acoustic Doppler current profiler measurements at hydrokinetic energy sites (technical communication), IEEE J. Ocean. Eng., in revision.
  • Polagye, B. and J. Thomson, Tidal energy resource characterization: methodology and field study in Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, US, Proc. IMechE, Part A: J. Power and Energy, in press.
  • M. Palodichuk, B. Polagye, and J. Thomson, Resource mapping at tidal energy sites, IEEE J. Ocean. Eng., in press.
  • Bassett, C., B. Polagye, M. Holt, and J. Thomson (2012). A vessel noise budget for Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, Washington (USA). J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 132(6), 3706-3719.
  • Thomson, J., B. Polagye, V. Durgesh, and M. Richmond (2012) Measurements of turbulence at two tidal energy sites in Puget Sound, WA (USA), IEEE J. Ocean. Eng., 37(3), 363-374.
  • Polagye, B., B. Van Cleve, A. Copping, and K. Kirkendall (eds.) Environmental effects of tidal energy development: Proceedings of a scientific workshop, March 22-25, 2010. NOAA Technical Memorandum, NMFS F/SPO-116, 2011.
  • Polagye, B. and P. Malte. Far-field dynamics of tidal energy extraction in channel networks, Renewable Energy, 36(1), 2010.
  • Polagye, B., M. Kawase, and P. Malte. In-stream tidal energy potential of Puget Sound, Washington, Proc. IMechE, Part A: J. Power and Energy, 223(5), 2009.
  • Polagye, B., Malte, P., Kawase, M., and Durran, D. Effect of large-scale kinetic power extraction on time-dependent estuaries, Proc. IMechE, Part A: J. Power and Energy. 222 (5), 2008.
  • Polagye, B., P. Malte, and K. Hodgson. An economic analysis of bio-energy options using thinnings from overstocked forests, Biomass and Bio-energy, 31(2-3), 2007.

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