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Wave and Tidal Power

Wave And Tidal PowerWhat is wave and tidal power?

Tidal power is energy generated through the use of waves and tides. The tides are used to turn large underwater turbines or tidal energy generators. The tidal generators are placed in areas experiencing high tidal waves and their designs allow them to capture the kinetic motion of the surging and ebbing of the ocean in order to produce electricity.

Potential for tidal power.

The global potential for production of electricity from tides and waves is enormous. The geographical position influences the capacity of tidal electricity generation. Waves are the best energy resources at latitudes of between 30 and 60 degrees in both hemispheres and the western coasts of continents tend to have higher potentials than the eastern ones.

The United States for example receives 2100 terawatt-hours of waves and tidal incidents along its coastline every year. Tapping as little as one third of this energy would produce more than the entire hydro-power systems can produce in the country.

The waves and tidal energy can also produce about 20% of the UK’s current electricity needs which amount to about 30 to 50 gigawatts. United Kingdom is arguably the undisputed leader globally when it comes to marine energy with various projects already undertaken putting the industry in track to producing 120 MW by the year 2020.


The various technologies required to generate electricity from waves and tide are still at a nascent stage with several commercial projects under development. Like other emerging energy sources the wave and tidal technologies are currently expensive compared to other like the H.E.P technologies or Wind turbines. With further research, funding and experience in the field, tidal and wave technologies are expected to follow the usual rapid decrease in pricing that the wind energy technologies experienced.

1) Wave energy

When it comes to wave energy use there are three main technologies employed. The first one makes use of floats, buoys and or simply pitching devices which generate electricity using the rise and fall of the ocean swells to drive hydraulic pumps.

The second technology make use of oscillating water column devices to facilitate electricity generation at shores using the fall and rise of water. The ocean waters drives air out of the top of the shaft and intern powering an air-driven turbine for electricity generation.

The third and final technology uses over-topping device which concentrates waves and directs them into an elevated reservoir. Power is then generated from the reservoir when water is being released and rotating the turbines.

A majority of the wave energy projects to be undertaken will make use of the offshore floats, buoys or the pitching devices.

2) Tidal energy.

Up until today the most common model employed in tidal energy generation is the erection of a tidal dam with sluice across a narrow estuary. As the ocean waters flow in and out creating uneven water levels on the sides of dam, the sluice on the other hand is opened and water allowed to flow through low-head hydro turbines to generate electricity. For the tidal barrier to be feasible the difference between the lower and higher tides must be at least sixteen feet.

Several new model for tidal energy generation facilities have emerged these days. They include the tidal lagoons, tidal fences, and the underwater tidal turbines. They are not commercially operating as of yet with several companies developing lace bridesmaid dresses turbines to be placed offshore or in estuaries where strong tidal currents flow thus spinning the turbines.

Tidal turbines will be used in waters ranging from 60 to 120 meters deep with water currents exceeding 5-6 mph. Water being denser than air causes the tidal turbines to produce more electricity than the wind turbines in a given area.

Impacts on the environment.

Tidal energy unlike fossil fuels power plants facilitate production of electricity without polluting the environment through production of greenhouse gases. The wave and tidal facilities also have little or no visual impact as they are mostly submerged below the water level.

The full environmental impacts of tidal and wave energy generation are still unknown with studies underway to assert them. The major concerns on this type of energy generation is the effect on marine ecosystems and fisheries.

Some postulated effects can be minimised through careful siting of the turbines to minimize their impact on marine life and ecosystems.

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