7 Tidal Energy Pros & Cons: Is Tidal Power The Future?

Humans have relied on the ocean for a long time to provide them with a plentiful supply of food. Tidal energy, on the other hand, is a new type of untapped resource that is now lapping at our feet:

We have an abundance of energy in our seas, which comes in the form of moving water. To be more specific, if we were successful in harnessing all of this energy efficiently, we would be able to meet the entire world population’s energy requirements while still having some left over.

The use of tidal energy is not a new concept by any means. For thousands of years, humans have harnessed the power of the tide. It has been used to assist with labor-intensive tasks such as grain grinding in the past.

However, with the assistance of modern technology, we can harness the unbounded power of the tides. We can use it to generate clean and renewable electrical energy, which we can then distribute.

The Pros and Cons of Tidal Energy (Advantages & Disadvantages)

Pros of Tidal Energy Cons of Tidal Energy
Clean and Renewable Environmental Impact
Predictable and Reliable High Construction Costs
Long-lasting Equipment Scarcity of Suitable Locations
Effective at Low Speeds Inconsistent
Tidal energy is an overwhelmingly positive addition to the roster of eco-friendly technologies. We talk more about this below

As with any new technology, tidal energy has its own set of advantages and disadvantages that must be considered. It is critical to consider all potential pitfalls in the renewable energy sector before committing to a particular path forward.

How does Tidal Energy Work?

For the sake of simplicity, tidal energy is defined as the gravitational and kinetic energy contained within large bodies of water on our planet. The ebb and flow of water is caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon, the Sun, and the rotation of the Earth.

It is estimated that these astronomical forces move a mind-boggling amount of water every single day. Where water is moving, there is kinetic energy that can be captured and used by humans.

A turbine, which converts kinetic energy into electrical energy, can be used to capture the energy that is generated by all of this moving water. This type of energy production is similar to hydroelectric energy production, with the exception that it does not require falling water to be produced.

Tidal energy differs from many other forms of renewable energy in that it is extremely predictable, in contrast to wind or solar power, which are both unpredictable. The weather can have a significant impact on the efficiency of many environmentally friendly power solutions on a regular basis.

Tide levels are constant and operate on a well-established schedule around the world, which is a valuable asset for any would-be energy producers looking to take advantage of this natural resource.

Simple Definitions:

1. Kinetic energy: The amount of energy that an object or mass (such as a body of water) has as a result of its motion. For example, dropping a ball from the top of a building would result in the creation of mechanical energy.

2. Gravitational energy: It is the difference in gravitational potential energy created between two objects of differing size and weight. For example, before you drop a ball from the top of a building, there is a great deal of potential gravitational energy present because gravity will pull the ball to the earth’s surface.

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How is Tidal Energy Produced?

Tidal energy can only be harnessed after kinetic energy has been converted to electrical energy, which takes time.

One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is with a turbine that spins as a result of the physical push of the tides and converts the movement of water to useful electricity. The following are the three different types of tidal turbine systems that are currently available:

  1. Tidal Barrage:When it comes to harnessing tidal energy, tidal barrages are the most effective method available. A dam-like structure is required, which forces water at high speeds through a bottleneck, where a turbine is located. Construction of such a structure is expensive. Higher water speeds translate into more kinetic energy, which in turn translates into more power. In many ways, it’s similar to a hydroelectric dam and power system.
  2. Tidal Turbines:Similar to how a wind turbine works, this system operates in a similar manner. A simple turbine is placed in the water by the participants. The rotors can be driven by the water passing over it in that location. This type of system is probably the simplest of all of them, and it also has the lowest installation cost, despite the fact that it produces less energy than the others.
  3. Tidal Fences:Tidal fences are similar in design to tidal turbines, with the exception of one significant difference: they use a different rotor. In these systems, a turnstile-like design is used, and the turnstile rotates in the direction of the flow of water. There have been several variations proposed for this design, but the most popular is a spinning cylinder shape that is vertically oriented in space.

The Newbie: Floating Tidal Turbines

This type of design is currently being tested, and it has not yet been approved for use in a commercial setting. The system is comprised of a floating barge with turbines mounted on its underside.

The turbines can be spun by the current that flows near the surface of the water, allowing them to generate electricity. Due to the fact that there is no need for any type of construction on the seabed, this design is simpler, more affordable, and less environmentally damaging than any other system currently in use.

Tidal energy farms could become a reality in a variety of locations around the world thanks to this promising technology.

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Pros of Tidal Energy (Advantages)

1. Clean and Renewable

Tidal energy is as clean and renewable as any other renewable energy source currently available to us, making it an excellent choice for a variety of applications. When compared to other renewable energy systems, it produces no pollution and occupies a small amount of physical space.

2. Predictable and Reliable

The majority of the world’s coastlines experience two high tides and two low tides per day. Unlike many other renewable resources, this cycle can be predicted with reasonable accuracy and is not subject to unexpected changes. Tidal currents can also be harvested for energy by some systems, regardless of which way they are flowing, allowing the production of energy to continue uninterrupted.

3. Long-lasting Equipment

Tidal energy systems are naturally resistant to the effects of time and have long operational lifespans. The average lifespan of most tidal systems is estimated to be 75-100 years in active service. In comparison, a solar panel typically degrades after 25 to 30 years, depending on the manufacturer. Time, energy, and money are saved as a result of this method, which is more cost-effective when applied on a large scale.

4. Effective at Low Speeds

The water passing over or through tidal energy systems can generate energy even when the water passing over or through them is moving at a relatively slow rate. Due to the fact that water is 1,000 times denser than air, it can be used to power a turbine even when moving at a snail’s pace.

Cons of Tidal Energy (Disadvantages)

1. Environmental Impact

While burying tidal generators beneath the surface of the water may be convenient for humans, the same cannot be said for all of the sea’s creatures. Because the systems rely on turbulent water to generate power, a substantial foundation must be constructed to support them. This type of underwater construction has the potential to destroy aquatic habitats. The tidal barrage is the most egregious offender, as it employs dams that can obstruct the movement of marine life and potentially cause havoc on aquatic ecosystems.

2. High Construction Costs

Building structures that are strong enough to withstand the turbulence and corrosive nature of sea water is not a cheap endeavor. In comparison to other renewable resource solutions, their upfront costs are lower. Despite the fact that tidal energy systems have long lifespans and eventually pay for themselves, governments are more concerned with their 5-year budget than with a 60-year forecast. The initial investment required for these systems is frequently the most significant stumbling block in the path of potential projects.

3. Scarcity of Suitable Locations

Not every seascape near a shore is suitable for the construction of a tidal energy plant. In order to function effectively and efficiently, they require a very specific set of factors to be present. Examples include the difference in height of the sea during low and high tides. Another major reason why tidal energy systems are not more widely used is a lack of suitable locations for their installation. This is one of the primary reasons why they are not more widely used.

4. It can be very Inconsistent

Some argue that engineering flaws and technical errors, such as excessive turbine failure rates, failures in generating electricity during low water conditions, and strong currents preventing turbines from operating properly, are to blame for the situation. In addition, because it is dependent on the tide, tide power is unpredictable. Due to the fact that the tides are not always consistent, the power is unreliable.

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Tidal Energy Farms

However, while tidal energy is still a long way from reaching the same level of mainstream acceptance as solar power, there are a number of tidal energy farms scattered throughout the world that are pushing the boundaries of this innovative resource.

MeyGen Tidal Stream Project (Scotland)

There is no better example of what a successful, full-scale tidal energy farm looks like than the MeyGen project in Scotland, which serves as a model for other projects around the world. In addition to being one of the newest and most promising tidal energy farms on the market, this facility has done wonders in demonstrating just how powerful the ocean can be.

Construction on the MeyGen Tidal Stream Project began in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the project began supplying electricity to the grid. The energy produced by this tidal energy farm over the past two years has totaled 17GWh of clean, renewable energy. At the moment, the project provides electricity to approximately 100,000 homes.

The tidal energy farm makes use of massive tidal turbines that stand 49 feet tall and have 52-foot-long blades that spin as the tide passes through them. Because of the strong tides in the area, the farm has been extremely profitable.

In fact, Scotland alone accounts for 25 percent of the potential offshore wind and tidal energy resources in the entire European Union, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. The project has been hailed as a resounding success for tidal energy, and it is hoped that it will serve as an example for other similar projects.

Rance Tidal Power Station (France)

Established in 1966 in the French province of Brittany, this is the world’s oldest operating tidal energy facility. It generates energy through the use of a tidal barrage system, which has a capacity factor of 40% and can generate 600 GWh per year. France’s total energy demand is met by the energy produced by this power station, which accounts for 0.12 percent of total demand.

Due to the fact that it is the world’s oldest tidal energy farm, the Rance Tidal Power Station has a lot to teach us about tidal energy efficiency and its true costs. To date, this tidal energy farm has recouped its initial development costs and is now producing energy at a lower cost per kWh than a typical nuclear power plant, which is a significant improvement.

The establishment of this tidal power station has been criticized for its environmental impact, particularly because the initial construction caused significant damage to the estuary that the barrage system calls home, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Due to the sensitive nature of their biomes, estuaries are notorious for experiencing fluctuations in salinity and sedimentation as a result of interruptions in water flow. These fluctuations can be detrimental to both fauna and flora.

Despite the fact that the initial impact was significant, the estuary recovered within the first ten years of operation. After construction, people now consider it to be as biologically diverse as it was prior to construction.

Shiwa Lake Tidal Power Station (South Korea)

The Shiwa Lake Tidal Power Station is a massive structure. In fact, it is the world’s largest tidal energy farm, and it is so massive that it can be seen from outer space.

It was not even the builders’ intention when they built the massive structure, which has a tidal barrage that spans 12.7 kilometers, that it would be used as a tidal energy farm in the future.

The project was originally intended to be used for land reclamation as well as for the provision of desalinated water for agricultural purposes. The water contained within the reservoir quickly became polluted, stagnant, and unfit for human consumption after the construction was completed. This compelled the government to rethink its plans and come up with a way to make use of the tidal lake while also assisting the ecosystem within it in its recovery.

In the form of a power plant, which took advantage of the massive amounts of water passing through the tidal barrage’s sluice gates and converted this moving water into a significant amount of energy, the solution was found. The tidal power station, which has a capacity of 254MW and began operating in 2011, currently produces 550 GWh per year and has a production capacity of 550 GWh.

Because of this massive project, researchers have been able to make significant progress in the study of environmental impact management for tidal energy farms, and they have discovered the potential for existing tidal management systems to be converted into power-generating facilities. Aside from its water sports and thriving ecosystem, Shiwa Lake has attracted countless tourists over the years, attracting millions of visitors each year.

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Why haven’t we seen more Tidal Energy Farms?

As previously discussed, there are numerous drawbacks to tidal energy production that must be addressed in order for it to be successful.

  • Construction Difficulties:The sea is a difficult environment in which to conduct any type of construction, and finding companies with the necessary expertise to construct and install these structures is not an easy task. There is a scarcity of skills and investment in the sector, and more research is required to perfect our methodology for harnessing tidal energy as efficiently as possible.
  • Environmental Factors: Because of the unique environmental requirements of tidal energy farms, they are out of reach for the majority of coastal communities. On the plus side, as technology progresses and these energy farms become more efficient, the standard is being lowered as a result.

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The Future of Tidal Energy

However, with increased investment and expertise, it will become less expensive and easier to implement in different parts of the world. The industry is still in its early stages. With each tidal energy farm that is put into operation, we learn more about the challenges that must be overcome and the solutions that can be implemented.

Market Growth

As interest in tidal energy grows around the world, more and more people are conducting research and development on the subject.. The market value of this industry serves as a straightforward indicator of the expansion of this industry. In 2014, the tidal energy market was valued at $487 million, but experts predict that it will be worth $11.3 billion by 2024.

Development in the USA

Because of the vast and diverse coastlines of the United States, there are numerous potential sites where people could generate electricity using tidal energy. There are no large-scale tidal farms operating in the United States at this time.

However, there have been a number of proposed projects that have not yet been implemented. Several locations offer the best opportunities to harness the power of the tide, including the following:

  • West Coast (WA, CA, OR)
  • Hawaii
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • East Coast (ME through NC)

More research is needed by experts to determine where the best potential sites for tidal energy farms are in the United States. The raw data, on the other hand, already reveals enormous potential. It’s possible that this sector of renewable energy will provide the clean, hassle-free solution we’ve been looking for in the modern age.

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