The planet Earth is the amazing place that we all can call our home. It is filled with natural wonders that allow us to accomplish great things, pursue our dreams, and even power our homes. Many of the forms of power that are available to us today rob the planet of its natural resources and may even contribute to climate change. One resource, however, is completely natural and has a minimal impact on the environment once the power plant is built. That resource is tidal energy.
Should tidal energy be a power source that each country should work on developing to help ease the consumption of fossil fuels? There are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when evaluating this energy resource, so it is important to weigh all of the pros and cons before making a final decision.
Here Are the Pros of Tidal Energy
1. The global potential for tidal energy is 700 TW per year.
That’s a lot of energy that could be used to power homes, provide heat, and a number of other needs. It’s an untapped resource that is still in its beginning stages, which means we could potentially eliminate many other sources of “unclean” power that are currently being used.
2. It’s a form of consistent energy.
The tides are always moving, which means power can be generated around the clock. It’s also a stable stream of power because the tidal tables are easy to predict. Although some areas are more susceptible to tidal changes to others, there are many potential installation points on shorelines all around the world to take advantage of this natural resource.
3. Once the plant is brought online, it is a pollution-free power source.
The benefits of tidal motion mean that we would be able to generate power without having to create any air or water pollution whatsoever. The only environmental impacts that would be created would be in the development of the factory products that would be needed to bring the power plant online.
4. It is incredibly efficient.
Not only is tidal energy a completely renewable resource, but it is also highly efficient. Almost 80% of the energy that is generated by the tides can be converted into electricity. In comparison, fossil fuels like crude oil or natural gas are about 30% efficient. That means tidal energy is 2.5x more efficient than the current power infrastructures of most nations.
5. The lifespan of a tidal energy plant could be virtually limitless.
The oldest tidal energy power plant has been online since 1966. As a power plant ages, the costs of producing power become less and less as the plant begins to pay for itself. It also means that the one-time costs of building the power plant in the first place have a tremendous future value. Imagine having clean, renewable power for your community for the next 50 years and that’s just the start of what the potential of tidal energy power can be.
6. One power plant could create up to 2,000 new manufacturing and installation jobs in a community.
All it would take to make a powerful economic impact is a 1,000 MW tidal energy power plant. The result would be more local dollars, more local spending, and a better overall standard of living.
Here Are the Cons of Tidal Energy
1. The equipment must be created to be extremely corrosion-resistant.
Because tidal energy power uses the forces of the sea to operate, the equipment installed to generate electricity must be extremely resistant to corrosion. The salt water would eat away at the equipment every day and defects in craftsmanship could result in constant breakdowns and high maintenance costs.
2. Some tidal movement periods will not provide as much power.
The tidal patterns around the planet naturally shift, so there would be times where the amount of power that could be generated would be greatly reduced and this could affect a community’s power supply during that time.
3. It might affect the local habitat.
The tidal energy power plant operates through a series of open turbines, which means that sea life could become injured by the sharp edges of the equipment. The power plants must be mounted somewhere near the sea as well, which means shore life could also be disturbed at the selected location.
4. It is a utility that is extremely new.
New technologies mean that there is a limited workforce that is available to service the needs of a tidal energy plant. This means that there could be worker shortages as soon as a power plant goes live and that could affect the overall production levels that could be achieved.
5. It is an expensive technology right now.
All new technologies tend to have higher costs associated with them because of the development costs that are associated with their invention. As time moves on, however, technology becomes cheaper and this would allow for tidal energy plants to be constructed on a much larger scale. Future technologies may even allow for us to take advantage of weaker off-shore ocean currents.
Is Tidal Energy the Right Technology to Pursue?
Renewable energy needs to be our future. Even if it is developed just as a backup plan, the nature of fossil fuels is that there is a finite amount of them. Even with new reserves being located, there is no guarantee that those reserves will last. The United States uses 40 million barrels of crude oil every day. Imagine would could happen if those millions of barrels could be replaced with tidal energy? Not only would we be able to continue our current lifestyles, but we could help the environment as well.
There are some disadvantages to consider as well. It’s an expensive technology and the best places to generate tidal energy are limited. As technology develops, however, all shore locations could be utilized – and some offshore locations too. The future of tidal energy looks bright, but by weighing the pros and cons of it, we can determine if it is a technology that we wish to pursue.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.