Tidal Energy is a new type of renewable energy that focuses on harnessing the power of the tides to spin a turbine. Thus, creating electricity that can be sent to the grid, but it’s still very new.
However, the most powerful tidal energy generator is now fully operational in Orkney. It has the capacity to power 2,000 homes every year for the next 15 years and will act as a trial for the technology as a whole.
This is the first commercial tidal turbine in existence and many more could follow suit.
How Does It Work?
This tidal energy turbine is equipped with two separate turbines that get submerged. When they are underwater, they begin spinning due to the fast-moving tides and underwater currents.
This generates electricity.
A great way to think of them is as an underwater wind turbine. But the main difference is that, unlike the wind, the tides never stop. This is why tidal energy is likely to be one of the most reliable renewable sources going forward.
So, how does the electricity make its way to the grid?
An undersea cable carries the electricity generated by the turbine to the coast’s electric grid. This is similar to how offshore wind projects deliver their electricity to the shore.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Every technology has a disadvantage or two, and tidal technology is no different.
In this case, there are a lot of environmental concerns. After all, you are putting spinning turbines into the habitat of aquatic life. The good news is that the turbines don’t spin fast enough to actually be a threat to most fish.
However, another concern is about the EMFs, or electromagnetic fields, that are emitted. This could have an unforeseen consequence on sea life, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.
To put this into perspective, many humans are affected by EMFs such as hallucinations, loss of balance, and a variety of other issues. Though, it really depends on the individual.
Not everyone is affected by EMFs the same way. Hopefully, fish won’t have many of the same issues.
Why Isn’t Tidal Energy Growing Faster?
The demand for renewable energy has never been higher, which raises the question, why isn’t tidal energy widely available?
The simple answer is that it is a new and unproven technology competing against other cheaper and proven sources. As a result, investors are less likely to invest in a new technology when both solar and wind projects are booming.
Without access to capital, it’s very difficult to get this technology operating in the real world.
The technology is also not quite ready to be commercialized. And I know what you’re thinking, you just said this was the first commercial tidal turbine. While this is the first, the process isn’t exactly streamlined or efficient enough to be competitive.
And that’s important when the structure weighs 680 tonnes and took 18 months to assemble!
Does the Tidal Energy Have A Bright Future?
While you don’t hear about tidal energy often, it was the same for both wind and solar. If this project is successful, it could definitely open the eyes of investors, which can speed up the adaption process.
This can also help create thousands of new jobs for coastal regions around the world. Especially those that are not suitable for offshore wind projects. That said, it’s unlikely to match the popularity of wind and solar in the coming years.
It will likely take over a decade before the technology becomes mainstream.
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.