What is Tidal Energy?

Tidal energy is a renewable energy powered by the natural rise and fall of ocean tides and currents (National Geographic). Generally, these energy sources are developed in areas where there is a high difference between high and low tide, to maximize the potential energy derived. Though Tidal Energy has not yet developed to be produced on a large scale, scientists have continued its research as it could be a potential non-renewable energy source replacement. 

Tidal Energy generators include tidal streams, barrages and tidal lagoons.

Similar to how wind turbines function, turbines are placed in tidal streams to take the fluid energy and convert it to usable electricity. Because water is much more dense than air, tidal energy is more powerful, predictable and stable than wind energy (National Geographic). These turbines, however, are most effective in shallow water, which also allows for minimal disruption to water bodies, ships and aquatic ecosystems. 

Barrage, another tidal energy generator, serves as a large dam through which water is controlled from high to low tide. These barrages still use turbines as most energy sources require a “trigger,” most often replicated in the shape of a wheel. Barrages have a much larger environmental impact than tidal streams, as they require large, uninterrupted water bodies and serve as barriers to marine life. 

Functionally, barrages are similar to tidal lagoons, other than the fact that tidal lagoons can be constructed on natural coastlines. Because of the lack of heavy machinery, marine life is not threatened by the formation of these tidal lagoons. However, another result of the lack of machinery is the low energy output. 

Currently, the United States has granted $35 million in funding tidal and river current energy systems. Because of the minimal carbon footprint, many scientists have hope for this sector’s energy potential.Alejandro Moreno, who is acting assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said oceans and rivers represented “a huge potential source of renewable energy.” The Department of Energy (DOE) said the funding would come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (CNBC).

Numerous tidal power-related projects, including some in the United States, have advanced significantly in recent years. For instance, the European Marine Energy Centre in the Orkney islands. began grid-connected power generation in July 2021 using what has been labeled “the world’s most powerful” tidal turbine. 

The use of tidal energy is steadily increasing. “In data released in March 2022, Ocean Energy Europe said 2.2 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed in Europe last year, compared to just 260 kilowatts in 2020. For wave energy, 681 kW was installed, which OEE said was a threefold increase. Globally, 1.38 MW of wave energy came online in 2021, while 3.12 MW of tidal stream capacity was installed. By way of comparison, Europe installed 17.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity in 2021, according to figures from industry body WindEurope” (CNBC).

Such facilities want to further test tidal turbine blades under demanding conditions, hoping it will hasten the advancement of marine energy technologies and reduce costs.

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