One of the most exciting forms of renewable energy creation is tidal energy. Tidal power is a form of hydro power that uses the movements of the tides from the ocean to generate usable power. It can be harnessed as kinetic energy as turbines are powered or as potential energy where barrages can use the difference between low and high tides.
There are only nine, yes 9 tidal power plants currently in operation in the world today.
The reason why tidal energy is not emphasised as much as it could be is because it is not considered an efficient form of renewable power. It has a potential impact on the environment because silting and other ecological problems are associated with these power plants. Erosion effects can be enhanced and that ultimately means a title energy power plant could be a short-term solution instead of a long-term one.
The first tidal power station was created in France in 1966.
The largest MW capacity for a title power plant comes from Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station, producing 254 KW. This power plant went online in 2011.
There is only one title power station in the United Kingdom - MeyGen - and it has a capacity of 6KW.
A proposed 8000 MW tidal power plant and barrage system on the Severn Estuary in the UK has been estimated to cost £11.5 billion.
A tidal fence in the Philippines will cost an estimated £2.3 billion to produce 2,200 MW.
Tidal energy is clean renewable green energy and does not use any fossil fuels, thus has zero CO2 emissions and zero impact to the environment.
It’s the cost of tidal energy that makes it such a difficult proposition to include for most societies. The largest producing active tidal energy power plant right now can only produce enough power for about 45,000 homes. The technology currently exist to create large power plants that can produce 100 times this amount of energy, but it will cost billions of pounds to create. That doesn’t even account for the changes in erosion that would need to be potentially fixed and the alterations of tidal patterns that could affect local wildlife. With the number of existing seawalls that have already been built, however, the Sihwa power station proves that we could potentially do more with what we already have.
How Can We Maximise This Tech In Its Infancy?
Seawater is 832 times more dense than air, making it a more efficient energy source from an overall perspective.
An 8 knot current is the equivalent to a wind turbine receiving 380 kph wind speeds on a consistent basis.
That the tides have caused our planet to lose 17% of its total rotational energy course of its existence.
70% of the planet is covered with oceans and the energy that is stored in them as waves.
The number of moving parts in an wave power plant is low, about 25-35%.
The main problem is reliability and the costs of the plants.
It would take 222 tons of coal to replace just 1.8 GW of tidal energy that is produced – and all of the pollution that goes with coal.
With the ability to build energy producing facilities in any place where the tides come in or out, there are abundant places in this world today that could be retrofitted for tidal energy. The problem that we face is the cost. Even though this technology is ultimately more efficient, our societies are built on the current production models of fossil fuels. Transitioning away from fossil fuels has an inherent cost that some societies may not be able to pay at this moment. The good news is that this technology can still provide us with energy if we are forced to eliminate the amount of carbon that goes into our atmosphere. It gives us hope that there could be a brighter tomorrow, especially if we can create power plants in a cost-effective way.
What Challenges Do We Fact With Tidal Energy?
Tidal power can be used anywhere there is tide, mostly along the coasts.
Most of the world’s wave energy is centred around the poles. Equatorial waters have very little wave energy.
Smaller ways will always equal higher costs.
About 60 billion watts of energy from tides can be used for electricity generation
Tidal and wave energy consumption creates no liquid or solid pollution once the power generating facility has been completed.
The World Energy Council estimates that 2 TW of energy can be harvested from the waves.
0.1% of all energy would cover the worlds energy consumption 5x over.
With so much energy potential at stake, supporting the development of this technology should become a high priority. Imagine a world where we can produce all of the power that we need from something that is completely safe and effective. Instead of harvesting fossil fuels or risking safety through the creation of nuclear energy, we could obtain all the power we need in the natural movement of the earth itself. It isn’t some dream that an environmentalist has had. This is today’s reality. As human populations grow, power needs will continue to grow as well. Technology like this would help us meet future demands without compromising the atmosphere or enhancing the greenhouse effect.
Does Tidal Energy Have Any Drawbacks?
Large barrages that are associated with tidal energy can disrupt local migration patterns.
This equipment has also been known to injure. It is and other animals that come near it.
There are only a few locations in the world where the size of the tides is large enough to make the installation of a tidal energy plant cost-effective right now.
Many of the prime locations to harvest tidal energy are in very secluded ocean waters of the southern hemisphere.
There is no doubt that we still have a long way to go in the development of tidal energy. If we focus on research and development in this area, however, there is a good chance that we can reduce costs and increase efficiencies at the same time. This would make it possible to harvest the energy of virtually any wave and that’s technology from which we could all benefit for generations to come.