We all know that the ocean is constantly moving, which means it was only a matter of time before someone decided to harness the ocean’s energy and turn it into power. That power, which is usually electricity, is called tidal power, and it could be a pretty big key to the future of our energy world.
While wind energy and solar energy can produce a large amount of electricity, they can’t always be regulated; the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. The ocean’s tides, however, are predictable, which means their energy is easier to control than the energy from of wind or the sun. This makes tidal energy something that can constantly be captured, both day and night.
Ways to Produce Tidal Power
There are several ways to harness the ocean’s energy and turn it into electricity. One example is underwater turbines (similar to wind turbines). These turbines are powered by the flow of the tide when it comes in and when it goes out. When the ocean moves, it spins the turbines and the turbine movement produces electricity.
Another example is a tidal barrage, which is similar to a dam and takes advantage of the various heights of the ocean at different stages of the tide. When the tide comes in, ocean water is channeled into a large basin behind a dam. When the tide goes back out, the water is released through the dam and its kinetic movement is used to power turbines in the dam. These turbines then produce electricity.
Tidal lagoons, which are a fairly new concept, are another way to harness tidal energy. These lagoons work like tidal barrages, however, they would be able to produce power both when the tide comes in and when the tide goes out. They can also be built offshore or connected to land, which usually means there can be more of them than barrages.
Tidal power isn’t exactly new – in fact, it dates back to around 900 A.D. when ocean power was used to grind grains. Fast forward to 1966, and the first modern tidal barrage was built in St. Malo, France. This barrage was the world’s largest tidal power plant for 45 years until the Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station was built. Today, the Sihwa Lake station produces 5.5 billion kWh of electricity annually.
Tidal power has several advantages – it requires no fuel, and therefore produces zero emissions. It’s also highly efficient, predictable, and reliable. Plus, the Earth is made up of about 70% water, which means it’s abundant, and once a power system is installed, it boasts low operating costs.