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Tidal Waves: Where Will the Next Wave of Renewable Energy Come From?
Posted by Greg Scandrett on Jan 10, 2017 10:00:00 AM
The use of renewable energy continues to grow across the globe. While Iceland runs on 100 percent renewable electricity, other countries are following suit by exploring possible options. Tidal energy is one of them.
Tidal energy is created by the surge of ocean waters during the rise and fall of tides. It is a renewable source of energy that uses underwater turbines to produce electricity. It is still in its infancy stage, but what is the real potential of tidal power?
Tidal energy might be able to deliver reliable and predictable clean energy. It is similar to wind turbines but tidal turbines are made of a tower structure that is linked to the sea floor with numerous turbines attached under the water. The energy that can be produced will then be propelled through a system of substations and underwater cables, and passed into the national grid.
This kind of renewable energy source is still being tested for its potential. The largest European site, once it is fully operational, is estimated to generate 86 megawatts (MW) that could power up to 42,000 homes. While it can generate useful amounts of power, it may not produce as much energy as wind and solar power.
The estimated tidal power potential ranges from 90 to 120 gigawatts (GW) globally compared with the current total generation capacity from all sources of 5,250 GW. With its potential at 2 percent, it might not be enough to be an actual source of renewable energy. If tidal energy is compared with the capacity of wind energy, which has been deploying about 320 GW in terms of worldwide capacity today, more research might be needed.
The challenges with tidal energy might not be the process of harnessing the power, but rather the research that lies behind its process. The Pacific Marine Energy Center is analyzing the potential of waves and tides and relays the data to scientists and engineers for further evaluation.
Tidal energy is still in the works for some countries that are trying to harness its power. It is gaining as much interest as wind and solar power, which continue to be large sources of electricity. If further research proves to be successful, tidal power could be the next big thing.
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