Tidal energy is a form of ocean energy that is in use today. It is a renewable energy option that has its benefits and its applications. Some of these applications as well as these benefits are considered here.
A lot of energy is available in waves of the oceans and by harnessing this power you can use another of the Earth’s most renewable energy sources.
Anyone who has ever been to the ocean will testify to the power of the waves that crahs along the shoreline as the tides come in. The tides of the ocean are as a result of the gravitational pull of the sun and moon and they are also a result of the Earth’s rotation too. These forces cause ocean waters to rise and be lowered from time to time. Tides have different cycles of twelve and one half hours everyday; they also occur twice a day and can be easily predicted.
The use of tidal power was visible as early as the 12th century when tidal mills would use the force of the tides in order to grind grain and corn. The 18th century resulted in competition from windmills as well as waterwheels. Tidal mills became somewhat extinct with the invention of cheap steam engines. In 1967 France was the first to use tidal wave power on a large scale in order to produce electricity.
Generation of electricity from tidal waves is somewhat similar to hydroelectric power generation. Bigger dams which are known as barrages are built at the bottom of a tidal basins. Gates on the barrage permit the tidal basin to fill during the incoming high tides. Likewise this basin will tend to empty through a turbine during a period of ongoing tide. In turn this creates an electric generation that helps in the production of electricity. Systems also exist which generate electricity from incoming and outgoing tides as well. Negative effects may result with the plants and animals present in the area.
Tidal fences may be used to generate electricity as well. Vertical axis turbines are mounted on these fences and passing water is passed through these turbines. Ideal locations for these tend to be channels placed between the two landmasses. Tidal fences tend to be cheaper than tidal barrages but they cause a lesser environmental impact on marine life.
Tidal turbines are a relatively new technology that is used for tidal energy. These turbines operate somewhat similarly to wind turbines and they are arranged in rows underwater. They work better in areas that have strong tides. They may be heavier and costlier to build but they tend to capture much more energy. They damage less of the environment that other methods as they do not affect migration paths of sea life.
Tidal power requires a tide difference of at least 16 feet in order to function. However there are very few places where this can occur. You can’t just construct tidal power plants anywhere. A handful of places exist which are capable of the production of this power range. France happens to be the only successful country that has harnessed this tidal power effectively. Currently people hope that certain technological developments will through research develop better ways to harness tidal power as a replacement for fossil fuels.