Utilizing the power of ocean tides and harnessing the energy falls under the simple definition of tidal power. Water currents create massive energy, and with the help of technology, this power can be utilized for human. It is one of the oldest forms of energy available on our planet. There is a continuous process to learn and develop new ways to generate electricity from tidal energy. European studies say that the cost estimates for tidal technologies in 2020 are between EUR 0.17/kWh and EUR 0.23/kWh
How Does Tidal Power Work?
Harnessing tidal power is technically more complicated than any other renewable power generation. As a matter of fact, the initial infrastructure demands a lot of effort and expense.
1. Tidal Turbines
Tidal turbines and generators are very similar to wind turbines, though the blades are much shorter and more robust. The water currents turn the turbines, and the kinetic energy turns into electricity. The construction cost of the tidal stream systems is quite high, and also installation and maintenance are difficult. But it’s cheaper than other tidal systems which use barrages and has a less environmental impact.
The process works best where there are extreme tidal zones as water is 830 times denser than air and, therefore, can generate electricity at lower speeds than wind turbines. Norwegian and British coastlines are perfect for creating power with tidal turbines.
2. Tidal Barrage
Tidal barrages are quite similar to the dams of hydroelectric plants, but these are much larger as they are built across an estuary or bay. The barrage power plant consists of three main parts, which include holding the water back during high tide and let the water through the sluice gate, helping to create the electricity. The tidal range needs to be more than five meters for the barrage to be workable. When the tide comes in, water flows through the dam into the basin, and when the tide stops, the gates are closed to trap the water in the basin/estuary. La Rance barrage in France is the largest tidal power station in the world.
Let us discuss the most reliable Features of Tidal Energy!
3. Clean and Continuous Power Source
Tidal Power emits minimal greenhouse gases, and tidal power plants require minimal effort to generate electricity. The turbines of the generator convert kinetic energy into electric energy. The tidal energy lowers the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation. As of now, there are zero environmental issues reported about tidal energy production. The Department of Trade and Industry reported that 10% of the UK electricity requirements could be satisfied by tidal power.
4. Highly Effective at Low Speeds
The density of water makes it viable to generate electricity even at low speeds. Tidal energy systems can also generate electricity when the water is moving very slow or passing over them.
5. High Maintenance and Operating Cost
Compared to other renewable sources, energy production from tidal is expensive. The tidal energy harnessing can cost between 3 to 15 million dollars or even more. The cost structures are determined by considering the sub costs and weight of the components.
The barrage technology has the highest investment cost. The installation of tidal turbines will allow the cost-effective maintenance of the turbines. The tidal industry is designing affordable projects to make energy production economical and viable.
6. Environment-friendly Resource
Tidal energy does not produce gases that are responsible for acid rain or global warming. The use of tidal power can minimize the requirements for nuclear energy and the radiation risks that come along with it. Tidal Power Generation does not produce thermal, water, or air pollution. The tidal power plants diminish carbon emissions and benefit the surroundings worldwide.
7. Protects Coastal Areas
How is tidal power harnessed without effecting the coastal areas? Well, such questions can arise in your mind if you are concerned about the environmental situation. Besides producing electricity, the technology’s progress also depends on safeguarding marine life.
Scientists are developing a marine alert system for animals to protect sea life from spinning turbines. If any animal is detected very near to the power project, the alert will be sent to shut down the turbines.
8. Minimizes Foreign Fuel Demand
If tidal energy is harnessed on a large scale, the demand for foreign fuel can be reduced, and energy security can be enhanced. Scientists are focusing on satisfying the energy demand by avoiding dependency on foreign fuel imports.
9. Offers Economic Opportunities
Generating value from marine energy is an opportunity to set up an energy sector that will help in business benefits and providing employment opportunities. It can be achieved by installing more power plants to produce clean electricity. The UK’s study shows that the tidal sector is employing more than 1,700 people. The number can significantly increase to 6,000 until 2023.
The tidal energy is moving towards commercialization at this stage. The companies are investing in the tidal industry because it is driving revenue and capital support.
10. Tidal Power Plants are Long-lasting
Tidal power plants’ barrages are constructed with concrete across the mouth of the river. The turbines associated with barrages have dam-like structures. These turbines possess a life span of over 100 years. Its long-lasting feature makes it competitive in the market.
The nuclear power plants, solar panels, and wind turbines come with an assurance of 15-20 years and generate a minimal amount of energy compared to tidal power.
11. On the Cards for Future Use
The tidal power possesses significant potential for the future due to the large size of the coastal region. Though the tidal energy market is in the beginning stage, with better expertise and investment, we can make it easily accessible around the world. Experts say that the tidal energy market is expected to grow by $11.3 million in 2024. Scientists are conducting more research for finding potential sites for power generation.
12. Energy Storing Facility
The tidal barrage system contains reservoirs that are used to store energy for later use. However, the concept is still under development.
The electrolyzer is also used to assimilate excess energy produced by tidal turbines. Some of the hydrogen gas generated is used in cells for backup power, and the remaining will be compressed for storage.
Tidal energy is about to emerge as an economically feasible form of energy. The high cost is one of the significant challenges associated with energy production. The energy generation equipment is expensive, and the additional cost is included for the secure functioning of energy systems.
The researchers estimated that the year 2020 is going to experience a significant breakthrough in tidal power generation. Tidal energy is reliable, and power generated from tidal sources is of better quality than other renewable sources.
It is not affected by weather conditions. With the improvement in coastal infrastructure and innovations in the tidal system, its popularity can be expected worldwide in the coming days.