Countries are looking to curb climate change and reduce fossil fuel emissions. Some companies are now focusing on energy sources from tidal waves. Two firms on opposite sides of the Atlantic are working to use ocean currents in many ways to generate energy that is clean and reliable. Off the coast of Scotland, Orbital Marine Power operates the most powerful tidal turbine in the world. The turbine is approximately the size of a passenger airplane. On the water, its central floats. The turbine is roughly the size of a passenger airplane. About 60 feet below the surface at the end of each wing are oversized rotors whose movement is dictated by the waves.
The energy of tidal streams is similar to people. It is kinetic energy, so it is not too dissimilar to the wind. But there are some critical differences to wind energy. Waves are far more predictable than wind. The flow and ebb of tides rarely differ and can be timed far more precisely. Those emotions can be predicted years and decades in advance. These motions come only from two directions, and they’re almost 180 degrees. But in wind turbines, the wind comes from many directions. Tidal waves generate more energy than wind.
The technology needed for generating tidal energy is not fully developed and there are some challenges associated with it. The technology is high cost. But the potential and reliability of tidal energy make it a valuable tool in the fight against climate change. The Orbital turbine can produce up to two megawatts and can power 2000 homes a year. This is connected to the electricity grid in Scotland’s Orkney.
To generate power near Roosevelt Island in New York City’s East River, Verdant Power is using similar technology. This is located around 3000 miles away from Orbital’s turbines. It is not on the market yet but set up as a part of a pilot project to help supply electricity to New York’s grid. Verdant, in eight months, has generated enough electricity to power roughly 60 homes.
Rivers and systems could be 24/7 power. Wind doesn’t blow all the time, and the sun doesn’t shine all the time. But river currents, depending on the river, could be 24/7. Around the world, the energy potential is something like 250 gigawatts, and this is enough to power 250 million homes for a year. The biggest obstacle in the usage of tidal energy is that it is expensive to set up and scale up a tidal power system. The challenge is generating electricity in a cost-effective way that people are willing to pay and is competent with other energy sources.
Tidal energy is two or three decades behind wind energy in terms of adoption and scale. Solar and wind are above ground, so it is easy to work. The costs and challenges of operating underwater are something that experts have acknowledged. The average commercial tidal energy project costs as much as $280 per megawatt-hour. Wind energy costs roughly $20 per megawatt-hour. It is one f the low-priced energy sources available today.