Tidal range electricity generation uses the water level difference between high and low tides to operate generator turbines. The method requires the construction of barrages and sluices to capture water during high tides and then release it during generation at low tide. Tidal range generation is predictable renewable energy driven by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun.
It is only a practical scheme in those places that have large tidal ranges. The largest tidal range in the world is in the Bay of Fundy in Canada. The second largest is the Severn Estuary, in the UK. Tidal ranges are large in many places around Britain’s coasts. But they are also vulnerable to flooding and surges from rising seas.
A new study by Lancaster University in the UK has found that the environmental and economic benefits are huge because tidal range barrages can protect coastal areas from flooding and sea level rise. With two-way generation and pumping, the full range of existing tides can be maintained to protect and support low-lying intertidal areas such as saltmarshes and mudflats. High tides can be limited to existing levels simply by closing sluices and running turbines and low tide levels can be maintained by pumping. The study determined that with modern technology and operating procedures, these so-called estuarine barrages may be the only practical way to protect vital coastal habitats.
Earlier work by the researchers found that tidal range projects under commercial consideration in the UK can produce about 5% of the country’s electricity use and additional projects are feasible for 4 or 5 times as much generation.
Photo, posted August 17, 2014, courtesy of Andrea via Flickr.