In January, a report from the Environmental Audit Committee concluded that tidal range and tidal stream energy should play a key role in the UK’s plans for clean energy, and improved energy security. Due to the ongoing energy crisis, any way of generating sustainable and reliable energy should be explored.
The UK has huge tidal energy potential, being surrounded on all sides by the ocean. But how does tidal energy work? And can it help us meet our energy needs?
Tidal range generation involves building a barrage across a river, or a lagoon in a bay, and then using the tides to create a difference in water levels on each side. This difference stores up potential energy, and then the water is allowed through, spinning turbines to generate power.
The bigger the difference between water levels on each side, the bigger the amount of potential energy, the faster the turbines go, and the more energy is generated.
Tidal range projects are deployed in shallow waters, with many areas around the UK coastline and in rivers being suitable for development.
Tidal stream involves installing giant turbines on the bed of a river or the sea and capturing kinetic energy as the water spins the turbine, similar in principle to wind energy.
Since water is denser than air, you can get more power at less speed, making it in some ways more efficient than wind power.
Tidal stream technology requires around 34 meters of water or more to be deployed in, and requires a high tidal current and high velocity in order to turn the blades at enough speed to generate energy reliably, so it isn’t possible to install everywhere.
But between these two types of technology, there is ample opportunity for energy to be generated around the UK’s coastline, as well as through rivers across the country.
Power generators on this scale aren’t easy to build. Building anything underwater is difficult at the best of times, and energy infrastructure like this would have to be incredibly sturdy and resilient to ensure it would remain functional for decades at a time.
Tidal range generators can take up to ten years to build. But once one is built and functioning at a high level, it can have a similar or even greater energy output to a nuclear reactor, with none of the risk of pollution.
So if multiple tidal range generators were built over the next 20 years, we would see our energy supply increase dramatically, which would have numerous other positive effects on our society and economy.
Perhaps the most important impact of having more tidal power would be the price of energy falling. The more energy we have, the less it needs to cost. We would no longer need to import energy, leading to further savings.
As we continue to move away from fossil fuels and generate sustainable energy on an ever-greater scale, the cost of energy should only get lower.
The energy crisis has shown that energy is not infinite. It’s something we have to generate, store, and transfer around the world. Having a greater ability to generate our own energy, without having to import it, would make a huge difference to the UK’s energy grid ensuring energy for everyone.
Tidal power will play a big part in the future of UK energy. It has the potential to help us escape the energy crisis, lower the cost of electricity, and secure reliable, clean energy for years to come.
Read more about why it’s so important that we develop renewable energy, or learn about the impact of the energy crisis on fossil fuels.
The energy crisis is having an impact on almost every industry around the world. You can’t have an industry without ener...Read full blog