Tidal Power Benefits
Today, everywhere around the world, more and more people are paying closer attention to the conservation and preservation of the environment. One of the effects of the increased environmental concern is that there is a greater demand for renewable and sustainable sources of energy.
Indeed, there is a great urgency to identify renewable and eco-friendly alternatives to fossil fuels (e.g. coal, petroleum and natural gas) which are slowly getting depleted. Experts have identified hydropower as one of the best alternatives to non-renewable sources of energy.
One form of hydropower that is quickly gaining the attention of the world is tidal power also known as offshore hydropower.
1. Defining Tidal Power
Tidal energy is a major source of kinetic energy. This means that tidal power generates energy from movement. To be more specific, tidal power generates electricity by harnessing the power of tidal movements in the world’s oceans and seas.
It is important to note that tidal energy is a better source of renewable energy than the sun and the wind due to the predictability and consistency of tidal movements.
2. How Tidal Power Works
Tidal energy mainly comes from the movement of water waves, and in some cases, from the flow of rivers. Tidal power can also be harnessed from the ocean’s thermal energy. Three different tidal generators are used to harness tidal energy and turn it into electricity,
- Tidal Turbines – These are very similar to underwater windmills, and they utilize the same technology as windmills. However, since water is denser than air, tidal turbines are usually stronger but shorter in length. The movement of the water rotates the blades which in turn trigger a generator that produces electricity.
- Tidal Barrages – Barrages are quite similar to dams. However, because of the construction across estuaries or bays, they are essentially bigger than dams. When the tide comes in, the barrage facilitates the collection of water into the basin. When the tide stops, the gates of the barrage close and subsequently trap the water. However, as the tide goes out, the turbines in the gates are re-activated, and as the water flows through them, they generate electricity.
- Tidal Lagoons – Lagoons are similar to barrages except for the fact that they are situated off from the sea or rather, closer to the coastline. When the tide rises, water accumulates in the lagoon. As the tide falls, the moving water turns the turbines which then generate electricity.
3. Advantages of Tidal Power
While it is true that the initial costs of tidal power projects can be quite high, it is also true that there are many benefits and environmental benefits associated with this type of energy.
i. Firstly, tidal energy is one of the most reliable and predictable sources of renewable energy. Oceans and seas always have tides and will continue to have tidal movements for as long as there is the gravitational interaction between the moon, the earth, and the sun and also as long as the earth keeps rotating.
As a result, the earth’s oceans and seas experience two tides every single day. This consistency and predictability ensure that the production of tidal energy does not require backup energy from plants powered by fossil fuels.
ii. The fact that tidal energy cannot be exhausted/ depleted also makes it a sustainable source of energy. In addition to that, tidal power plants make use of simple but durable materials. For example, the Rance estuary, a tidal energy station in France was built in 1966 and is still in operation.
iii. Tidal power is also a green source of energy. You can characterize the eco-friendly nature of tidal power in three major ways;
- It does not release carbon into the atmosphere.
- It is a natural form of energy that uses natural resources.
- It is highly energy efficient in that there is very less loss of energy in the process of converting the kinetic energy into electricity.
iv. Tidal power is effective even when water is moving at low speeds. This is because water is denser than air meaning that less movement is required to produce power. In fact, experts suggest that it is possible to produce tidal power even when water is moving at a speed of just 3 feet per second.
v. The dams built for the purpose of harnessing tidal power can also double up as protective barriers for the coastline, particularly during extreme weather conditions.