As governments, businesses and people in general become more aware of the finite status of fossil fuels, the idea of sources for renewable energy is moving from the fringe of the energy debate to the main topic. One method of power generation that is gaining ground in Europe.
Gaining sea would be more accurate because it’s a system that uses tidal currents to produce electricity. Dr. Ian Bryden is Dean of Postgraduate studies at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, and he says he was almost a lone voice for using tidal currents in the energy debate just ten years ago
There are currently two large tidal current systems generating power in Europe.
So, what is tidal power? First what is it not…It is not wave power. Wave generation takes place at or near the surface. Tidal power generation takes place underwater using windmill like turbines and the predictable power of tides to generate electricity. Dr. Bryden says a tidal basin must meet certain requirements to be an acceptable site but such places exist around the world.
Dr. Bryden says his calculations indicate a system of tidal current turbines could remove 25-percent of the kinetic energy of tidal currents while only effecting the tidal flow by only one or two percent. And he says there are natural limits to over crowding a tidal basin and negatively affecting the tidal area.
At the moment tidal power is, says Bryden, about twice as expensive as it has to be but with every system that goes on line the cost is reduced. He says economists who have worked the numbers think the cost of tidal power in five years will be comparable to the cost of wind generated power. Bryden believes that tidal currents could one day produce 20-to-25 percent of Europe’s electricity needs. Dr. Byrden was recently in Houston to address an energy conference at Rice University.