Written by Maddie Caruso, ESLLC 2015-2016
Tidal energy is a type of hydropower that uses the movement of the tides in the ocean to generate electricity. The movement of tides takes place because of the gravitational pull of the sun and moon on the water in the earths oceans. This type of energy is renewable and very consistent because of the very calculated movement of the tides. This type of energy could be a good alternative to coal or fossil fuels in coastal areas.
Tidal energy is collected in three different ways. One is by using the movement of tides as they go in and out to spin turbines that are stationed on the ocean floor. Second is by using barrages that collect the tidal water and function as a hydroelectric dam. And third, in tidal lagoons. All of these different energy collecting processes pose different environmental challenges for generating this type of renewable energy.
There are many concerns centered around tidal energy. There are many environmental concerns surrounding the installation of underwater turbines. Although tidal energy creates clean energy in comparison to coal and other dirty energies, it is often coming with the cost of damaging many marine environments in the process. Tidal energy barrages also come with their own issues. They completely disrupt the land where they are constructed and can change the movement of different fish species. Lagoons are less damaging to the environment in theory (there are none currently functioning) because they allow for fish to swim in and out of them and do not create as many lasting impacts, but generate less energy. All of these collecting processes can be expensive to install and repair.
Tidal energy is a fairly effective option for generating renewable energy, but there must be a balance between the amount of energy produced and the environmental and economic impacts. There are some places that tidal energy could be very effective, but in a majority of situations many other types of energy are less expensive and have less of an impact on the surrounding environment.