What is tidal energy?

We explain what tidal energy is, its main characteristics and uses. In addition, its advantages, disadvantages and examples.

  1. What is tidal energy?

It is known as tidal energy  that is obtained from the use of tides . Through tidal power plants is used in different ways the water of the sea to generate, through a system of alternators, an electrical charge that can be exploited in many ways.

The operation of these plants is simple: when the tide rises, the floodgates of the plant are opened and the water is allowed to enter , which will then be retained when the tide is lowered, to be released through a turbine mechanism that will transform the Kinetic or potential energy of water in electricity .

The use of tidal energy can occur in three different ways:

  • Tidal current generators . Also called TSG (  Tidal Stream Generators ), they take advantage of the movement of water to convert kinetic energy into electricity, just as wind plants do with the wind.  
  • Tidal dams . They operate as described above, taking advantage of the potential energy of the dammed water to mobilize the generating turbines.
  • Dynamic tidal energy . Also called DTP (  Dynamic Tidal Power ), it combines the two previous ones: it consists of a system of large dams that induce different tidal phases in the water, and then mobilize their generating turbines.  

In the case of plants that take advantage of sea waves instead of tides, it will be called wave energy and not tidal power.

  1. Tidal power characteristics

Seawater energy
Despite its effectiveness, producing tidal power is extremely expensive.

Tidal energy is a type of renewable energy  (since the tides never run out) and clean (since it does not underproduce elements that pollute the environment ).

However, the relationship between the cost of construction of tidal plants, the environmental and landscape impact they have, and the amount of electricity produced, makes it an expensive and inefficient technology , which has prevented its popularization in the world .

  1. Uses of tidal energy

Tidal energy is used as a source of electrical energy to power small towns or industrial facilities . This electricity can be used to illuminate, heat or activate mechanisms of all kinds.

  1. Advantages of tidal energy

The advantages of this type of energy lie in the total absence of consumable raw material, since the tides are infinite and inexhaustible in human terms, which makes tidal energy a form of renewable, inexhaustible and economic energy, which does not fluctuate from according to the prices of an input in the international market , as is the case with oil .

On the other hand, it does not byproduct chemical or toxic elements whose disposition entails an additional effort , such as with radioactive plutonium of nuclear energy or with greenhouse gases that releases the combustion of fossil hydrocarbons.

  1. Disadvantages of tidal power

The main drawback of this form of energy is how inefficient it is, being able to provide hundreds of thousands of homes with ideal cases, but through colossal investments that have a rather negative landscape and environmental effect , since it must be directly intervened In the marine ecosystem . This means that the relationship between the manufacturing cost of the plant, the ecological damage and the amount of energy obtained is not too profitable.

  1. Examples of tidal energy

Seawater energy
The La Rance tidal plant produces electricity for 225,000 inhabitants.

Some examples of tidal plants are:

  • La Rance tidal plant . Located in France and opened in 1996, it produces electricity for 225,000 inhabitants, which is not negligible (9% of Brittany’s electricity). Its facilities are 390m long and 33m wide, and a 22km2 reservoir. 
  • Sihwa  Lake tidal plant  . Built in South Korea on Lake Sihwa, about 4km from the city of the same name, it generates around 254 MW of electricity and has the largest tidal facilities in the world: a 12.5 km long boardwalk and a water bill. 30 km2.
  • Tidal Lagoon tidal plant  . Planned in Great Britain, in the United Kingdom, in Swansea Bay, it will match La Rance in its capacities and generate about 240 MW of electricity. Approximately 850 million pounds of budget are allocated for the project, and construction began in 2013. 

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