Some new research published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society claims that the UK is seriously underestimating its potential to generate energy from tidal farms, and that estuary barrages and tidal streams have the potential to provide over 20% of the country’s electricity demand.
Despite the higher cost of tidal energy, it is also said to be more reliable than wind power. There are two ways engineers generate energy from tidal waves. One requires barrages to be built across tidal estuaries that turn turbines with the flow of the waves, and another involves planting turbines under fast flowing waters. The latter could be done in coastal waters along Cornwall and Scotland, and the former has been rejected by officials due to concerns for how it would affect the habitat.
Plans for 2013 include a company called MeyGen coming in to deploy tidal stream technology into the Pentland Firth, which will generate enough electricity to power about 38,000 homes.
“This is a crucial milestone for us, it will be the first array of tidal stream turbines,” said report co-author Professor AbuBakr Bahaj from the University of Southampton. “It will be a viable proposition for us in energetic areas of the sea – it will be give us another element in the energy mix that’s more reliable than wind.”
Analysts have noticed that the risk of flickering power was much smaller with tidal power than wind power. One of the biggest obstacles for large tidal power projects is funding, but the good news is that investors are rewarded with a subsidy of £40 per megawatt hour for all renewables investments. This is scheduled to end in 2017, but will still give investors and developers plenty of time to get started on new large-scale tidal projects.
Image: Scottish Power Renewables