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The Power of Tidal Energy

Aug 23, 2008
The earth is undergoing a terrible bout of global warming with the carbon that is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity and when used in vehicles for transportation purposes. Moreover the sources of this fossil fuel are fast diminishing with the increased need of energy with the modernization of countries.

This is the reason scientist and researchers all over the world are thinking and looking for alternative sources of energy which are also renewable and available naturally. And such a source of energy is the energy found in areas having large tidal ranges.

France has been harnessing energy found in tides of bays and estuaries since 1966. Canada and Russia have followed suit and have also managed to generate electricity from tidal waves. Basically, it is possible to harness and generate electricity from places where there is a large tidal range.

This energy of tidal waves is harnessed by trapping the water so that it is used to turn turbines. The energy so produced is released through tidal barrages found in either direction. However, generally implementation of tidal power technology worldwide proves to have little potential because of its environmental constraints.

Another reason that is considered to be attributed to the low potential of tidal wave energy is that it would produce electricity more efficiently if it generates electricity in bursts at gaps of perhaps six hours. However this is not feasible as it is the limits of tidal energy applications that hinder the use of tidal energy.

This is why a new form of technology has been devised, to harness this tidal energy. This new technology is found in the form of tidal stream generators which tend to draw energy found in underwater currents. It could be said that the principle used here in these tidal steam generators is similar to the technology found in wind generators, which are powered by wind.

In such cases of generation of electricity by tidal power, the higher is the density of the water; the better is the potential for a single generator generating significant levels of power. However today, tidal stream technology is in its budding stages where there is much more research to be done before it can be said that tidal stream technology is an important part and contributor to the generation of energy.

There are a few prototypes that have been devised to harness tidal stream power, and show great promise in this direction. One such prototype is the 300 kW Seaflow marine current propeller type turbine that was tested off the coast of Devon of UK, in the year 2003. Another prototype is a 150 kW oscillating hydroplane device, called the Stingray that was tested off the Scottish Coast.

The Hydro Venturi is another British prototype that is slotted to be tested in San Francisco Bay pretty soon. In addition to all this, the Canadian company, Blue Energy has ideas of installing large arrays of tidal current devices on their tidal fence in various locations around the world. These devices are planned to be based following a vertical axis turbine design with which more tidal energy is produced efficiently in the world.
About the Author
James Nash is a climate scientist with Greatest Planet (www.greatestplanet.org). Greatest Planet is a non-profit environmental organization specialising in carbon offset investments.

James Nash is solely responsible for the contents of this article.
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