Tidal Energy

Description of tidal energy, how it is harnessed and what it's pro's and con's are.

Right now we are in an age of waste and careless use of our natural resources. Attempts are being made to make environmentally sound decisions and tidal energy is one of the ideas being researched. Tidal energy is a type of renewable energy, a concept that is growing in popularity. Due to the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels like oil and gas, infinite sources of energy like that from water are vitally important. Not only is this a renewable source but it is cheap, making it economically feasible.

Kinetic energy is contained in all moving objects, including that of waves and currents. As a matter of fact, these two elements produce a vast amount of kinetic energy. This kinetic energy is then converted in a power station to electricity. The actual tidal movement of the oceans is a result of gravity. The sun and moon produce gravity which then pulls on the Earth, thus forcing the movement of large quantities of water.

Historically, water has been used as a power source and was evident in the use of waterwheels. Waterwheels displaced water producing energy which was used to run mills. Waterwheels have evolved over the years to encompass our current power stations. These structures are built to harness the energy from the movement of the tides. The power stations are constructed across estuaries which contain water built up from the high tides. The water released from the estuary flows through the turbines, forcing them to rotate. Each turbine is connected to a generator by a large shaft. Enclosed inside these generators are magnets, which are in turn surrounded by many wire coils. These spinning magnets generate energy inside the wire coils and then transfers it out through the cables. These stations would obviously work best where there are large estuaries, due to the increased ability to contain large amounts of water which is then passed through the turbines.

Right now power stations are not the epitome of energy production as more research needs to be done. According to the book "Our Earth, Ourselves", "the amount of renewable energy sources could be far greater if the government encouraged research and development" of them. As of right now in all of Europe, the main tidal energy production occurs in France. There is currently work underway in the United Kingdom revolving around eight possible locations of estuaries suitable for energy production. As quoted in the book "Electricity From The Sea" by Peter Osbourne, "the UK will have electricity supplied to the National Supply" from tidal sources sometime this year. Even though tidal energy is beneficial to the economy and the environment, the power provided would be on a small scale. Apparently, "a barrage will only provide power for about 10 hours a day, so power for the other 14 hours must be provided by other means".

Every type of venture has it's drawbacks, and tidal power stations bring about their share of concerns. Obviously these stations would not be effective as the sole supplier of demanded energy. Although with sustainability a rising concern, some type of compromise in the production of power is necessary. There are also some environmental issues that arise with this type of production. For one, the flooding of surrounding land can bring about much devastation. It could mean the relocation of settlement and agriculture plots. As well, it can alter the composition of the habitat and threaten local inhabitants. It could very possible affect migration routes and threaten endangered species by depleting suitable habitat and food sources for some of these species. Vegetation and marine life may not be able to adapt to the new water levels and may cease to grow or live where they previously existed. As well, species such as Eels and Salmon who migrate upriver to spawn are often destroyed inside the revolving turbines. The positive points of tidal energy use is that it will never run out, is inexpensive, and is not pollution producing like that of fossil fuels. Taking into consideration all of these factors it may be possible to create a compromise that is both effective, cost efficient and environmentally safe.

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