Solar and wind technologies have made significant developments in recent years. Now, tidal power is catching up.
The government of Canada plans to contribute $1 million to help develop tidal stream technology and research tidal power in Nova Scotia. The Offshore Energy Research Association and the Nova Scotia government have each pledged to add an additional $125,000 to the project.
Jim Carr, the Minister of Natural Resources, says the project will aim to study the environmental impact and reduce costs associated with tidal power.
“Few countries in the world have the advantages we do when it comes to tidal power,” says Carr. “Bordered by three oceans and with the longest coastline of any nation, Canada understands the potential of tides as a source of electricity,”
Tidal power has massive potential as a renewable energy source. The ocean tides are an inexhaustible source of clean energy, with the benefit of being far more predictable than the wind or sun. However, tidal power is currently underutilized.
Currently, there are two main methods of generating tidal power: tidal barrages and tidal streams. But both technologies have downsides in their current form.
A tidal barrage works much like a hydroelectric dam, allowing water to flow in at high tide and trapping it as the tide lowers. Then, a gate at the bottom of the barrage opens to let water through, spinning an underwater turbine.
Tidal barrages only work in areas with a high tidal range (a large difference between high tide and low tide) and appropriate terrain for building a large barrier. And although they generate clean energy, barrages are not entirely environmentally sound, as they can cause damage to local ecosystems.
Tidal stream technology is like an underwater wind turbine, capturing the kinetic energy of tidal currents to generate electricity. But since they’ve only been around for about ten years, the tech is still very expensive compared to other renewable energy sources, like wind and solar.
But tidal stream technology is on the rise. Last year, the first grid-connected tidal turbine was installed in Nova Scotia, generating enough electricity to power 500 Canadian homes. Researchers are now studying the impact of the turbine after its first year in use.