Tidal energy is still in the early stages of its life but has already been adopted by multiple countries. In the future, it may become one of the most important and impactful renewable energy sources in the world.
Today, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages tidal energy offers.
What is Tidal Energy?
Tidal range refers to a dam-like structure that traps rising waters on one end, then releases those water to the other side. In the process, a turbine is spun to generate electricity.
Tidal stream essentially refers to an underwater windmill. They are essentially water current turbines that can theoretically generate power 24/7. This technology is still under development.
Advantages of Tidal Energy
1. Tidal Energy is Renewable
The Earth’s high and low tides never stop. It’s the result of the Sun and Moon’s gravitational fields in conjunction with the Earth’s rotation. And you’ll be happy to know that the tide will not be stopping during humanity’s existence.
Thus, it is a completely renewable source comparable to both solar and wind.
2. We Can Fully Predict Tidal Currents
Tidal currents are extremely predictable, and most places around the world, even have their high-low tide cycles publicly available. Not only is the timing predictable, but also the strength.
This means that the technology is expected to reliably generate energy.
3. Works in Most Current Strengths
Other forms of renewable energy like solar and wind can stop working when not enough wind is blown or it’s an overcast day. It’s possible to generate tidal energy from very low current strengths.
As a result, the technology will work in most environments and be widely available for coastal regions.
4. Equipment Has Long Lifespan
To help offset some of the higher initial costs, tidal power plants are expected to have a very long lifespan in comparison to other renewable sources.
Solar and wind typically have a lifespan of about 20-40 years. Tidal plants can last over 100 years, thus making them more competitive price wise.
Disadvantages of Tidal Energy
1. Unknown Environmental Effects
Tidal technologies are very new. The first tidal power station was constructed in 2007 at Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. It is expected to have a similar effect to hydropower dams.
Yet it is possible for other issues to arise, but more information is necessary before any conclusions can be reached.
2. Releases EMFs to Marine life
EMFs, or Electromagnetic fields, are a byproduct of this technology and that will lead to exposure to marine life. A 2015 study concluded that these types of fields may affect migration patterns.
In particular, sharks, whales, and dolphins could end up migrating to different places. The outcomes are unknown.
3. Must Be Close to the Coast
While strong tidal currents are not necessary, they do need to be built closer to the coastline to receive enough current strength. The further from the coast you go, the more problems you encounter.
These include the cost, maintenance, and current speeds.
4. High Costs
It’s no surprise that new technology costs a lot of money to set up and that will certainly change over time, but building anything underwater is going to cost more. Thus, it’s likely going to be more expensive upfront than other forms of energy.
That said, having a 100 year lifespan and low maintenance costs will even the playing field.
Tidal Energy Is Promising
However, one thing is crystal clear.
This is a new form of renewable energy that the world desperately needs. In the future, you can expect to see huge gains and widespread adoption that resembles what both solar and wind are experiencing today.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.