Tidal power or tidal energy is a form of hydropower that converts the
energy obtained from tides into useful forms of power, mainly
Although not yet widely used, tidal energy has potential for future
electricity generation. Tides are more predictable than the wind and
the sun. Among sources of renewable energy, tidal energy has
traditionally suffered from relatively high cost and limited
availability of sites with sufficiently high tidal ranges or flow
velocities, thus constricting its total availability. However, many
recent[when? clarification needed] technological developments and
improvements, both in design (e.g. dynamic tidal power, tidal lagoons)
and turbine technology (e.g. new axial turbines, cross flow turbines),
indicate that the total availability of tidal power may be much higher
than previously assumed, and that economic and environmental costs may
be brought down to competitive levels.
Historically, tide mills have been used both in Europe and on the
Atlantic coast of North America. The incoming water was contained in
large storage ponds, and as the tide went out, it turned waterwheels
that used the mechanical power it produced to mill grain. The
earliest occurrences date from the Middle Ages, or even from Roman
times. The process of using falling water and spinning turbines
to create electricity was introduced in the U.S. and Europe in the
The world's first large-scale tidal power plant was the Rance Tidal
Power Station in France, which became operational in 1966. It was the
largest tidal power station in terms of output until Sihwa Lake Tidal
Power Station opened in South Korea in August 2011. The Sihwa station
uses sea wall defense barriers complete with 10 turbines generating
1 Generation of tidal energy
2 Generating methods
2.1 Tidal stream generator
2.2 Tidal barrage
2.3 Dynamic tidal power
2.4 Tidal lagoon
3 US and Canadian studies in the twentieth century
4 US Studies in the twenty first century
Tidal power development in the UK
6 Current and future tidal power schemes
Tidal power issues
7.1 Environmental concerns
7.1.1 Tidal turbines
7.1.2 Tidal barrage
7.1.3 Tidal lagoon
8 Structural Health Monitoring
9 See also
12 External links
Generation of tidal energy
Variation of tides over a day
Tide and Tidal acceleration
Tidal power is taken from the Earth's oceanic tides. Tidal forces are
periodic variations in gravitational attraction exerted by celestial
bodies. These forces create corresponding motions or currents in the
world's oceans. Due to the strong attraction to the oceans, a bulge in
the water level is created, causing a temporary increase in sea level.
Earth rotates, this bulge of ocean water meets the shallow
water adjacent to the shoreline and creates a tide. This occurrence
takes place in an unfailing manner, due to the consistent pattern of
the moon’s orbit around the earth. The magnitude and character of
this motion reflects the changing positions of the
Moon and Sun
relative to the Earth, the effects of Earth's rotation, and local
geography of the sea floor and coastlines.
Tidal power is the only technology that draws on energy inherent in
the orbital characteristics of the Earth–
Moon system, and to a
lesser extent in the Earth–
Sun system. Other natural energies
exploited by human technology originate directly or indirectly with
the Sun, including fossil fuel, conventional hydroelectric, wind,
biofuel, wave and solar energy. Nuclear energy makes use of Earth's
mineral deposits of fissionable elements, while geothermal power taps
the Earth's internal heat, which comes from a combination of residual
heat from planetary accretion (about 20%) and heat produced through
radioactive decay (80%).
A tidal generator converts the energy of tidal flows into electricity.
Greater tidal variation and higher tidal current velocities can
dramatically increase the potential of a site for tidal electricity
Because the Earth's tides are ultimately due to gravitational
interaction with the
Sun and the Earth's rotation, tidal
power is practically inexhaustible and classified as a renewable
energy resource. Movement of tides causes a loss of mechanical energy
in the Earth–
Moon system: this is a result of pumping of water
through natural restrictions around coastlines and consequent viscous
dissipation at the seabed and in turbulence. This loss of energy has
caused the rotation of the
Earth to slow in the 4.5 billion years
since its formation. During the last 620 million years the period
of rotation of the earth (length of a day) has increased from
21.9 hours to 24 hours; in this period the
Earth has lost
17% of its rotational energy. While tidal power will take additional
energy from the system, the effect[clarification needed] is negligible
and would only be noticed over millions of years.
The world's first commercial-scale and grid-connected tidal stream
SeaGen – in Strangford Lough. The strong wake shows
the power in the tidal current.
Tidal power can be classified into four generating methods:
Tidal stream generator
Main article: Tidal stream generator
Tidal stream generators make use of the kinetic energy of moving water
to power turbines, in a similar way to wind turbines that use wind to
power turbines. Some tidal generators can be built into the structures
of existing bridges or are entirely submersed, thus avoiding concerns
over impact on the natural landscape.
Land constrictions such as
straits or inlets can create high velocities at specific sites, which
can be captured with the use of turbines. These turbines can be
horizontal, vertical, open, or ducted.
Main article: Tidal barrage
Tidal barrages make use of the potential energy in the difference in
height (or hydraulic head) between high and low tides. When using
tidal barrages to generate power, the potential energy from a tide is
seized through strategic placement of specialized dams. When the sea
level rises and the tide begins to come in, the temporary increase in
tidal power is channeled into a large basin behind the dam, holding a
large amount of potential energy. With the receding tide, this energy
is then converted into mechanical energy as the water is released
through large turbines that create electrical power through the use of
generators. Barrages are essentially dams across the full width of
a tidal estuary.
Dynamic tidal power
Main article: Dynamic tidal power
Top-down view of a DTP dam. Blue and dark red colors indicate low and
high tides, respectively.
Dynamic tidal power
Dynamic tidal power (or DTP) is an untried but promising technology
that would exploit an interaction between potential and kinetic
energies in tidal flows. It proposes that very long dams (for example:
30–50 km length) be built from coasts straight out into the sea
or ocean, without enclosing an area. Tidal phase differences are
introduced across the dam, leading to a significant water-level
differential in shallow coastal seas – featuring strong
coast-parallel oscillating tidal currents such as found in the UK,
China, and Korea.
A new tidal energy design option is to construct circular retaining
walls embedded with turbines that can capture the potential energy of
tides. The created reservoirs are similar to those of tidal barrages,
except that the location is artificial and does not contain a
preexisting ecosystem. The lagoons can also be in double (or
triple) format without pumping or with pumping that will
flatten out the power output. The pumping power could be provided by
excess to grid demand renewable energy from for example wind turbines
or solar photovoltaic arrays. Excess renewable energy rather than
being curtailed could be used and stored for a later period of time.
Geographically dispersed tidal lagoons with a time delay between peak
production would also flatten out peak production providing near base
load production though at a higher cost than some other alternatives
such as district heating renewable energy storage. The proposed Tidal
Bay in Wales, United Kingdom would be the first tidal
power station of this type once built.
US and Canadian studies in the twentieth century
The first study of large scale tidal power plants was by the US
Federal Power Commission in 1924 which if built would have been
located in the northern border area of the US state of
Maine and the
south eastern border area of the Canadian province of New Brunswick,
with various dams, powerhouses, and ship locks enclosing the
Passamaquoddy Bay (note: see map in reference). Nothing came
of the study and it is unknown whether Canada had been approached
about the study by the US Federal Power Commission.
In 1956, utility
Nova Scotia Light and Power
Nova Scotia Light and Power of Halifax commissioned a
pair of studies into the feasibility of commercial tidal power
development on the
Nova Scotia side of the
Bay of Fundy. The two
studies, by Stone & Webster of
Boston and by
Montreal independently concluded that millions of
horsepower could be harnessed from Fundy but that development costs
would be commercially prohibitive at that time.
There was also a report on the international commission in April 1961
entitled "Investigation of the International Passamaquoddy Tidal Power
Project" produced by both the US and Canadian Federal Governments.
According to benefit to costs ratios, the project was beneficial to
the US but not to Canada. A highway system along the top of the dams
was envisioned as well.
A study was commissioned by the Canadian, Nova Scotian and New
Brunswick governments (Reassessment of Fundy Tidal Power) to determine
the potential for tidal barrages at Chignecto
Bay and Minas Basin –
at the end of the Fundy
Bay estuary. There were three sites determined
to be financially feasible: Shepody
Bay (1550 MW), Cumberline Basin
(1085 MW), and Cobequid
Bay (3800 MW). These were never built despite
their apparent feasibility in 1977.
US Studies in the twenty first century
A project to create a tidal power installation was begun in early 2014
by the Snohomish PUD in Washington but was ended in late 2014 due to
problems obtaining funding.
Tidal power development in the UK
The world's first marine energy test facility was established in 2003
to start the development of the wave and tidal energy industry in the
UK. Based in Orkney, Scotland, the European Marine
(EMEC) has supported the deployment of more wave and tidal energy
devices than at any other single site in the world. EMEC provides a
variety of test sites in real sea conditions. Its grid connected tidal
test site is located at the Fall of Warness, off the island of Eday,
in a narrow channel which concentrates the tide as it flows between
Ocean and North Sea. This area has a very strong tidal
current, which can travel up to 4 m/s (8 knots) in spring tides.
Tidal energy developers that have tested at the site include: Alstom
(formerly Tidal Generation Ltd); ANDRITZ HYDRO Hammerfest; Atlantis
Resources Corporation; Nautricity; OpenHydro; Scotrenewables Tidal
Power; Voith. The resource could be 4 TJ per year. Elsewhere
in the UK, annual energy of 50 TWh can be extracted if 25 GW capacity
is installed with pivotable blades.
Current and future tidal power schemes
Main article: List of tidal power stations
Rance tidal power plant
Rance tidal power plant built over a period of 6 years from
1960 to 1966 at La Rance, France. It has 240 MW installed
Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Plant
Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Plant in South Korea is the largest
tidal power installation in the world. Construction was completed in
The first tidal power site in
North America is the Annapolis Royal
Generating Station, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, which opened in 1984
on an inlet of the
Bay of Fundy. It has 20 MW installed
The Jiangxia Tidal Power Station, south of
China has been
operational since 1985, with current installed capacity of 3.2 MW.
More tidal power is planned near the mouth of the Yalu River.
The first in-stream tidal current generator in
North America (Race
Rocks Tidal Power Demonstration Project) was installed at Race Rocks
Vancouver Island in September 2006. The next phase
in the development of this tidal current generator will be in Nova
Bay of Fundy).
A small project was built by the Soviet Union at Kislaya Guba on the
Barents Sea. It has 0.4 MW installed capacity. In 2006 it was
upgraded with a 1.2MW experimental advanced orthogonal turbine.
Jindo Uldolmok Tidal Power Plant in South Korea is a tidal stream
generation scheme planned to be expanded progressively to 90 MW of
capacity by 2013. The first 1 MW was installed in May 2009.
A 1.2 MW
SeaGen system became operational in late 2008 on Strangford
Lough in Northern Ireland.
The contract for an 812 MW tidal barrage near
Ganghwa Island (South
Korea) north-west of Incheon has been signed by Daewoo. Completion is
planned for 2015.
A 1,320 MW barrage built around islands west of Incheon is proposed by
the South Korean government, with projected construction starting in
The Scottish Government has approved plans for a 10MW array of tidal
stream generators near Islay, Scotland, costing 40 million pounds, and
consisting of 10 turbines – enough to power over 5,000 homes. The
first turbine is expected to be in operation by 2013.
The Indian state of
Gujarat is planning to host South Asia's first
commercial-scale tidal power station. The company Atlantis Resources
planned to install a 50MW tidal farm in the Gulf of Kutch on India's
west coast, with construction starting early in 2012.
Ocean Renewable Power Corporation was the first company to deliver
tidal power to the US grid in September, 2012 when its pilot TidGen
system was successfully deployed in Cobscook Bay, near Eastport.
In New York City, 30 tidal turbines will be installed by Verdant Power
in the East River by 2015 with a capacity of 1.05MW.
Construction of a 320 MW tidal lagoon power plant outside the city of
Swansea in the UK was granted planning permission in June 2015 and
work is expected to start in 2016. Once completed, it will generate
over 500GWh of electricity per year, enough to power roughly 155,000
A turbine project is being installed in Ramsey
Sound in 2014.
The largest tidal energy project entitled
MeyGen (398MW) is currently
in construction in the
Pentland Firth in northern
A combination of 5 tidal stream turbines from Tocardo are placed in
the Oosterscheldekering, the Netherlands, and have been operational
since 2015 with a capacity of 1,2 MW 
Tidal power issues
Tidal power can have effects on marine life. The turbines can
accidentally kill swimming sea life with the rotating blades, although
projects such as the one in Strangford feature a safety mechanism that
turns off the turbine when marine animals approach. Some fish may
no longer utilize the area if threatened with a constant rotating or
noise-making object. Marine life is a huge factor when placing tidal
power energy generators in the water and precautions are made to
ensure that as many marine animals as possible will not be affected by
it. The Tethys database provides access to scientific literature and
general information on the potential environmental effects of tidal
The main environmental concern with tidal energy is associated with
blade strike and entanglement of marine organisms as high speed water
increases the risk of organisms being pushed near or through these
devices. As with all offshore renewable energies, there is also a
concern about how the creation of EMF and acoustic outputs may affect
marine organisms. Because these devices are in the water, the acoustic
output can be greater than those created with offshore wind energy.
Depending on the frequency and amplitude of sound generated by the
tidal energy devices, this acoustic output can have varying effects on
marine mammals (particularly those who echolocate to communicate and
navigate in the marine environment, such as dolphins and whales).
Tidal energy removal can also cause environmental concerns such as
degrading farfield water quality and disrupting sediment
processes. Depending on the size of the project, these effects can
range from small traces of sediment building up near the tidal device
to severely affecting nearshore ecosystems and processes.
Installing a barrage may change the shoreline within the bay or
estuary, affecting a large ecosystem that depends on tidal flats.
Inhibiting the flow of water in and out of the bay, there may also be
less flushing of the bay or estuary, causing additional turbidity
(suspended solids) and less saltwater, which may result in the death
of fish that act as a vital food source to birds and mammals.
Migrating fish may also be unable to access breeding streams, and may
attempt to pass through the turbines. The same acoustic concerns apply
to tidal barrages. Decreasing shipping accessibility can become a
socio-economic issue, though locks can be added to allow slow passage.
However, the barrage may improve the local economy by increasing land
access as a bridge. Calmer waters may also allow better recreation in
the bay or estuary. In August 2004, a humpback whale swam through
the open sluice gate of the
Annapolis Royal Generating Station
Annapolis Royal Generating Station at
slack tide, ending up trapped for several days before eventually
finding its way out to the Annapolis Basin.
Environmentally, the main concerns are blade strike on fish attempting
to enter the lagoon, acoustic output from turbines, and changes in
sedimentation processes. However, all these effects are localized and
do not affect the entire estuary or bay.
Salt water causes corrosion in metal parts. It can be difficult to
maintain tidal stream generators due to their size and depth in the
water. The use of corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless
steels, high-nickel alloys, copper-nickel alloys, nickel-copper alloys
and titanium can greatly reduce, or eliminate, corrosion damage.
Mechanical fluids, such as lubricants, can leak out, which may be
harmful to the marine life nearby. Proper maintenance can minimize the
amount of harmful chemicals that may enter the environment.
The biological events that happen when placing any structure in an
area of high tidal currents and high biological productivity in the
ocean will ensure that the structure becomes an ideal substrate for
the growth of marine organisms. In the references of the Tidal Current
Race Rocks in British Columbia this is documented. Also see
this page and Several structural materials and coatings were tested by
the Lester Pearson College divers to assist Clean Current in reducing
fouling on the turbine and other underwater infrastructure.
Structural Health Monitoring
The high load factors resulting from the fact that water is 800 times
denser than air and the predictable and reliable nature of tides
compared with the wind makes tidal energy particularly attractive for
electric power generation. Condition monitoring is the key for
exploiting it cost-efficiently.
Renewable energy portal
Sustainable development portal
Tidal power in New Zealand
Tidal power in Scotland
World energy resources and consumption
Structural health monitoring
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Commons has media related to Tidal power.
Enhanced tidal lagoon with pumped storage and constant output as
proposed by David J.C. MacKay, Cavendish Laboratory, University of
Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Database The U.S. Department of
Energy's Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Database provides
up-to-date information on marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy,
both in the U.S. and around the world.
Tethys Database A database of information on potential environmental
effects of marine and hydrokinetic and offshore wind energy
Estuary Partnership: Tidal Power
Location of Potential Tidal Stream Power sites in the UK
University of Strathclyde ESRU—Detailed analysis of marine energy
resource, current energy capture technology appraisal and
environmental impact outline
Coastal Research - Foreland Point Tidal
Turbine and warnings on
proposed Severn Barrage
Sustainable Development Commission - Report looking at 'Tidal Power in
the UK', including proposals for a Severn barrage
Energy Council - Report on Tidal Energy
Energy Centre - Listing of Tidal
-retrieved 1 July 2011 (link updated 31 January 2014)
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