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Tidal Energy

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Submitted By ryimam
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Tidal Energy

October 20, 2011

Abstract Tidal energy is an innovative and environmentally safe form of hydropower that harnesses the energy that comes from ocean tides and converts it into electricity. This type of alternative energy provides us with another outlet we can use instead of burning our limited amount of fossil fuels. Tidal energy is feasible in some parts of the world that have ample amounts of flow velocities. With the use of new turbine technology, the availability of sites for tidal energy will allow it to be a practical use of renewable energy.

Tidal Power Technologies
There are three main generating methods to harness power from tidal waves. The first one is the use of a barrage or dam which uses kinetic energy to move the water to power turbines. The turbines turn an electric generator on to produce the electricity. The second generating method used is the tidal fence, which are giant turnstiles that spin towards tidal currents. These turnstiles usually run at 5-8 knots, and are geared more toward winds of a higher velocity. The third and final method is the use of tidal turbines which are positioned underwater in rows similar to wind turbine positioning. The use of tidal turbines is the better of the three methods because it maximizes the amount of energy harnessed from the tidal waves. The turbines are significantly effective since seawater has a higher density than air, so the ocean currents can carry significantly more energy. This allows the turbines to generate the same amount of energy as a wind turbine but with about one-fourth the diameter, which is impressive because with that information tidal plants can be constructed similarly to the wind turbines.
Past and Current Technology
There are numerous tidal power plants stationed around the world that are successful generating electricity. The first ever tidal power station was the Rance tidal power plant, stationed in La Rance, France. This tidal station was only operating for about six years and had a significantly large capacity of 240MW. A tidal power plant in Sihwa Lake, South Korea was recently built using the tidal barrage method, and has a larger power output capacity than the Rance plant. The capacity of this plant is at 254MW which are generated by ten turbines. The Sihwa power station is the largest tidal power installation which uses a combination of the tide water and the man-made lake. The project cost about $250 million and was supported by the Korean government. It would have been nearly impossible to complete the plant if it had not been for the government subsidies. The main reason why they built the Sihwa power station was for environmental benefits because when they constructed the seawall for the lake, pollution started building up in the lake reservoir which impacted the use of its water for agriculture. After they constructed the plant, pollution was reduced using the seawater to flush out the contamination.
Although countries around the world are developing successful tidal power stations, the United States is one particular country that has been heavily investing in this renewable energy, but has not recently built any of their own. As seen in the interactive map below (Fig. 1), the United States has potential on both coasts with fairly decent tidal activity. The Gulf of Mexico around Florida, Texas and Louisiana has potential as well with a density of about 50w/m2.

Fig. 1 Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States
The closest tidal plant to the United States is the Annapolis Royal Generating Station in Nova Scotia, Canada. This plant was constructed in 1984 with a power output capacity of only 20MW but it did generate about 50GWh, annually. While the plant generated a decent amount of electricity, it was unsuccessful because it did more harm to the environment than it did benefitting from the power generation. The dam that was built for the plant (to allow the tidal difference to accumulate every six hours) increased river bank erosion on both the upstream and downstream ends. Not only did the dam prevent some water flow, but it also served as a trap for marine life. A couple of incidents happened where whales swam through the open sluice gate at slack tide and ended up trapped there for several days.
All around the world more and more countries are investing in tidal plants, and one particular one is the United Kingdom. Britain alone has a whopping eight sites where tidal power plants can be stationed. With this many sites, Britain can harness about 20% of its energy usage. While some of these are potential sites, a few of them are planned to host turbine arrays. The Pentland Firth, near Scotland, is said to be the best site in the world to generate electricity from the movement of tides.
Economic and Environmental Challenges Even though tidal power has the potential to generate plenty of power, like anything else it has its drawbacks. Environmentally, as seen with the Annapolis Royal Generating Station, tidal plants had a major affect on marine life ecosystems. The usage of the tidal barrage made it difficult for sea life migration to occur.1 Since the incidents with the Annapolis Royal Generating Station, newer tidal plants ensured the safety of marine life and corrected this problem. Economically, there are a few major challenges that impact the success of tidal plants. For one, tidal power is not feasible in many places, and that is why only about twenty sites around the world have been identified as possible tidal stations – about 40% of these sites belong to the United Kingdom. The limited amount of sites impedes the development of this renewable energy. Another major drawback would be the fact that the plant can only generate when the tide is flowing in or out, which is a duration of only 10 hours each day. However, tides are predictable which means that there can be multiple plants generating power all at the same time during those 10 hours. Also, at lower operating rates the turbine can lose efficiency, which would not be effective at all.
Tidal energy is an extremely viable type of renewable energy on particular sites. Construction of the plants requires a substantial amount of money but when the project is completed successfully, we reap the rewards of providing electricity with a natural type of energy we can use for years to come. The production itself is not terribly difficult especially if the site is using the tidal turbines, because the turbines used underwater are similar to the wind turbines’ construction. Since the world is all about sustainability and eco-friendly products, tidal power seems like an excellent choice when it comes to future energy technology.

[1] "Energy Savers: Ocean Tidal Power." EERE: Energy Savers Home Page. U.S. Department of Energy, 9 Feb. 2011. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. <>.
[2] "Tidal Power Primed for Breakthrough." International Water Power and Dam Construction. Water Power Magazine, 17 Feb. 2009. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. <>.
[3] Haas, Kevin. "Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States." Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States. Department of Energy, Wind and Hydropower. Web. 9 Oct. 2011. <>.
[4] "Annapolis Tidal Station." Nova Scotia Power. Nova Scotia Power Inc. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. <>.
[5] "Tidal Energy in the UK." Tidal Energy. Tidal Energy in the UK. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. <>.
[6] "Energy Resources: Tidal Power." Andy Darvill's Science Site: Home. 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. <>.

[ 1 ]. "Energy Savers: Ocean Tidal Power." EERE: Energy Savers Home Page. U.S. Department of Energy, 9 Feb. 2011. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. .
[ 2 ]. "Tidal Power Primed for Breakthrough." International Water Power and Dam Construction. Water Power Magazine, 17 Feb. 2009. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. .
[ 3 ]. Haas, Kevin. "Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States." Department of Energy, Wind and Hydropower. Web. 9 Oct. 2011. .
[ 4 ]. "Annapolis Tidal Station." Nova Scotia Power. Nova Scotia Power Inc. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. .
[ 5 ]. "Tidal Energy in the UK." Tidal Energy. Tidal Energy in the UK. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. .
[ 6 ]. 1 "Energy Savers: Ocean Tidal Power." EERE: Energy Savers Home Page. U.S. Department of Energy, 9 Feb. 2011. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. . "Energy Resources: Tidal Power." Andy Darvill's Science Site: Home. 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. .…...

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