Tidal and Wave Power

Tidal and Wave Power

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Tidal and Wave Power

Tidal power operates by building a barrier across a river estuary. The
tidal flow drives turbines to produce electricity. Europe's only tidal
power station is at Rance in Northern France. Some sites in the U.K
could be developed to provide tidal power but the drawback is that
these schemes affect the habitat of wildlife such as birds and fish
because they alter the tidal currents. Also, barrage will only provide
power for about 10 hours per day. Power for the other 14 hours must be
provided by other means.

Waves possess lots of energy. Experiments with various different
designs of generator have proved that waves can provide electricity.
However, there are problems in developing and building wave powered
generators which are both cheap and efficient, as they must be strong
enough to cope with storms while being light enough to work with small

If every reasonable project in the UK were to be exploited for tidal
power the yield could be over 50 kwh a year representing 20 per cent
of the electricity demand in Britain. About 90 per cent of this
potential is at eight large estuaries including Severn, Dee, Morecambe
bay, Solway, Humber and Wash


A Barrage 16 kilometres long (which could be built in the Severn
Estuary) with 216 large turbines, could generate as much as 8640 MW
and supply up to 7% of electricity for England and Wales. It would be
extremely expensive to build though, costing around £8000million. It
would take seven years to close the barrage to produce first
electricity, and a further 2 years before full power output was

The only major tidal power scheme operating anywhere in the world is
in the Rance estuary between Dinard and Saint Malo in France , where a
barrage with 240 MW of turbines was completed in 1966, as a pilot
scheme for a prospective larger barrage across the Mont Saint Michel
bay. After some difficulties with the turbines the Rance scheme, it

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has operated regularly and reliably for 24 years and can now serve
over 300,000 people. However, the French have so far not proceeded
with the large scheme, preferring to invest instead in nuclear power
plants. Having said this though, in 1997, the French embarked on a
project that would replace the existing 24 turbines with new ones that
would harness power from the tide going both ways. This would be done
1 by 1 over the next ten years so as to not disrupt power to the 90%
of Brittany that it serves.


(Rance Tidal Power Facility. ½ mile long and 24 turbines. Tides from

Atlantic Ocean (upper part of top photo) are trapped and then released

Turbines (right). Exposed dam structure shown during construction


Tidal electricity generation would not require waste disposal nor
would it result in acidic emissions This means that if it were to
replace Coal fired or Gas fired power stations for example, Greenhouse
emissions would be greatly reduced. Benefits of having such a
structure would be protection of a large length of coastline against
storm surge tides (as with the Thames barrier), a road crossing and
substantial creation of employment.

Views are divided on the environmental impact of a large tidal
barrage. Some say it will do irreparable damage to the ecosystem of
the estuary while others maintain that it will create an exciting new
reserve for water birds, fish and vegetation.


The drawbacks of TIDAL and WAVE power are that the change in the tidal
currents affect the habitat of the seabirds in the area. Also, the
fish are affected by the change in the tidal currents. The tidal and
wave power stations can only produce ten hours of power in one day of
twenty-four hours so they would have to generate the other fourteen
hours of power another way which may be quite expensive. But there are
also good points about tidal and wave power. One good point is that
the power produced is cheap. Also, making the power does not pollute
the environment in the same ways that fossil fuels do but as mentioned
above, it has other environmental consequences.

Waves are a free and sustainable energy resource created as wind blows
over the ocean surface. The greater the distances involved, the higher
and longer the waves will be. Energy is stored in this way until it
reaches the shallows and beaches of our coasts where it is released,
sometimes with destructive effects.

Key Facts

· Oceans cover three quarters of the earth's surface and represent a
vast natural energy resource in the form of waves.

· The World Energy Council estimates that 2TW of energy could be
harvested from the world's oceans, the equivalent of twice the world's
electricity production.

· In the UK alone it has been estimated that the recoverable wave
energy resource exceeds total UK electricity demand

· As a general rule coastlines with an ocean fetch of greater than
400km are suitable, but even greater resources are available between
latitudes 300 and 600 in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

· If less than 0.1% of the renewable energy within the oceans could be
converted into electricity it would satisfy the present world demand
for energy more than five times over.


Relative Global Wave Energy Density

Figures in kW/m

Source: Wave Energy paper. IMechE, 1991 and European

Directory of Renewable Energy (Suppliers and Services) 1991

Wave devices are comprised of two basic elements; a collector to
capture the wave energy and a turbo generator to transform the wave
power into electricity.

1.The Collector and Oscillating Water Column (OWC)

The wave energy collectors used in Wavegen's Limpet and Osprey modules
are in the form of a partially submerged shell into which seawater is
free to enter and leave. As the water enters or leaves, the level of
water in the chamber rises or falls in sympathy. A column of air,
contained above the water level, is alternately compressed and
decompressed by this

movement to generate an alternating stream of high velocity air in an
exit blowhole. If this air stream is allowed to flow to and from the
atmosphere via a pneumatic turbine, energy can be extracted from the
system and used to generate electricity



2.Power Take Off - The Turbo Generator

Wells turbines are used to power the electricity generators. Wells
turbines have the unique property of turning in the same direction
regardless of which way the air is flowing across the turbine blades.
Thus, the turbines continue turning on both the rise and fall of wave
levels within the collector chamber. The turbine drives the generator,
which converts this power into electricity.
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