In the current drive to increase our use of renewable energy and reduce our dependence of fossil fuels, scientists are undertaking the study of tides as a possible source of green power. Governments around the world are investing millions of dollars into the development of technologies aimed at harvesting this untapped resource.
Tidal power would offer many advantages.
- It represents a nearly unlimited resource that will be unlikely to run out.
- The density of ocean water makes the turbine able to generate electricity even at low speeds
- Tidal Energy plants have a projected life of 75 to 100 years
- Tidal Energy plants are inexpensive to run and require minimal labour
- We can predict the time and intensity of the tides for years in advance
These would have to be weighed against the disadvantages:
- The initial cost of these energy plants
- Potential power plant sites are limited
- They could only provide power to coastal areas
- Tides, although regular, do not supply a constant energy flow
- The unforeseen environmental impact
- Economic losses caused by visual impact to coastline
- The vulnerability of the plants to severe weather
Researchers from Canada, Australia and the UK are currently developing hydrodynamic models of coastal areas along with feasibility assessments of the most promising regions.
Tidal energy power plants are currently operating in Nova Scotia, Canada, France and South Korea. The Sihwa Lake tidal power plant in South Korea is the world’s largest producing 552.7 GWh of electricity annually. There are also plans under development to build tidal power plants in the United Kingdom.