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Last week's poll: new surge for tidal energy?

Europe’s largest tidal array has been consented in the Pentand Firth off Orkney, a project that is expected to eventually generate up to 86MW of power. What will it take for tidal energy to make an appreciable contribution to the UK’s energy needs?

The overwhelming majority of respondents to last week’s poll believe much more government investment in tidal technologies is required, with 76 per cent agreeing with this viewpoint.

Only three per cent wrote off tidal entirely, believing it too small to make an appreciable contribution to the UK’s energy mix, whilst nine per cent took the view that the answer lies in large-scale projects to build tidal barrages at several estuary sites.

A wider view was taken by seven per cent who believe a concerted effort should be made to develop renewables rather than shale gas, and five per cent believe tidal will make a credible contribution to the UK’s energy needs through the development of grid-connected energy storage at sites with a high tidal flow, such as Pentland and the Irish Sea.

What will it take for tidal energy to make an appreciable contribution to the UK's energy needs?

As The Engineer reported on September 16, MeyGen will install the tidal array in stages, beginning with a 9MW demonstration project of up to six turbines. Construction starts in early 2014 with turbines set for commissioning in 2015.

This followed an announcement by DECC on February 27, 2013 that Meygen was one of two companies to take a share of £20m under the government’s Marine Energy Array Demonstrator scheme to support the development and testing of pre-commercial marine devices.

Speaking at the time, Greg Barker, energy and climate change minister said, ‘The UK, with its amazing natural resource and outstanding technical know-how is already leading the way on marine power for the rest of the world to follow, and I want to ensure we stay top of this table.’

What do you think? Let us know below.

Readers' comments (31)

  • We should think big. Use the whole Irish sea for tidal energy. It might need several dams extending to Ireland. The total energy present should exceed our needs if it can be harvested. So it must be worth some research on methods.

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  • Many of the coorespondents are talking of dams and heads as the means of quantifying the energy, missing the point that the major influence on the energy is the lunar and solar phases. I can tell from personal experience of fishing in the Thames estuary that the tidal stream energy is vast. I had nearly 1kg of lead on my line and it wouldn't hold on the seabed. My fishing line was strung out at about 45°. Surely then, as has been used in Scottish waters, is to use underwater turbines, without using the dams that are highly damaging to river and estuary natural enviroments.

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  • Finally a posting on wave power its got to be the way to go. wind is so unreliable & having the electricity utilities pay for them to be turned off is madness Im all for wave power the tide never fails unlike the wind.
    just need the government to support its development instead of all these eyesore windmills.

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  • Please don't mix tidal power and wave power.

    Tidal power is predicatable.

    Wave power, like wind, is not, being subject to the elements.

    Note: Tides around the UK are phased, so while it's turning at one place, it's running hard somewhere else. Sure, there is a (predicatable) difference in strength between neap and spring tides.

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  • I'm working designing tensile kite network structures for the harder problem of airborne wind energy... it's ace fun.
    Thing is the open source hardware designs we are producing are almost exactly analogous to a quality upside down solution for tidal or ocean current flows.
    Basically string a hexagonal tensed net across a flow. From each cell centre set a tensed twisting net tube of quasi 2d kite structures.
    Ropes and rags are so the way for lightweight flow to energy conversion.

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  • In regard to energy from the flow of water in rivers there are comments about energy storage. If we take the River Thames as an example, there are a number of weirs and locks that are used to control flow. These could be used also to maintain a variable flow through turbines to meet the variable demand. A 300mm rise in the river level causes no problems but is a great deal of stored energy. The same approach could be used throughout many rivers in the land. I am tasked at the moment to design a small hydro scheme using a 200 year old mill pond. The pond is large so we will use this to control the flow to when needed.

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  • I am all in favour of using tides as a way of generating electricity. At the same time the possibility of the West Antarctic ice cap melting and increasing sea levels cannot be ignored. Does anybody know what would happen if this occurred?

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  • Alternative power generation is essential for the future in the UK.
    Its development should be encouraged by government grants to develop its potential for local generation and consumption.

    However, the continual clamour for wind, tidal and hydro schemes, has become a distraction from the business of bulk electrical supply for, today, next week, next year and for the next decade at least.

    The UK’s electrical supplier’s policy for the reinvestment of the decaying UK electrical generation of base load power is based on the Nero fiddling, whilst Rome burns approach.

    The secure supply of base load electricity into the UK is nearing a tipping point.
    Where in order to maintain the electrical grid, wide scale power cuts will have to be made, and these will be at the maximum consumption periods, when consumers want and need to use electricity.

    We will all suffer serious social disfunctionality and great economic loss.

    ALTERNATIVE projects talk in MW mega watts, whilst what the UK base load needs, is GIGA WATTS, a thousand fold difference!

    The biggest tidal schemes of 90 MW and wind farm schemes of 300 MW, (subject to the if, buts and when they get up to their predicted outputs), is insignificant to a single 500 MW generator.

    What the UK needs is 36 x 500 MW generators to compensate for the fading out of the 60-70’s nuclear and coal fired builds.

    Assuming the UK’s electrical suppliers policy is allowed to remain in self denial.

    Then by 2024, the UK will be left with a wide variety of ALTERNATIVE generators running on hydro, wind, tidal, and thermal generators.

    A 1000+ highly dispersed localised generators operating 5MW – 10MW offering electricity at rates which will require a 2nd mortgage if you lucky enough to be connected.
    A scenario much like the market in the 1920-40’s before privatisation.

    The failure by the existing cartel of corporate suppliers to invest in the replacement of Nuclear heated generation and their abuse and dependency on the fast growing Network of International interconnectors, is taking the worlds best electrical generation system, to 3rd World supply system in less than 40 years of selfish corporate greed.

    When are we going to stop talking ALTERNATIVE and start talking electrical generation sense?

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  • there ia a constant flow of water over the weirs on the navigable inland waterways, surely it is feesable to use this to drive a small turbine, lo the lock byewash on the narrow canals could be tapped

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  • It's not just feasible, it's already being done. But often it's just not economic.

  • Sir, I have for many years maintained that we could and should generate power from wave & surge movement, we have in Briton one of the longest shorelines in Europe with some of the highest tides, I have submitted Ideas for underwater generators in the past & I'm sure there are many others out there with ideas to do the same, it needs the Government to step up & throw some of the billions they waste supporting Countries that have Nuclear programs, or sending aid to Countries with a space program.

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  • We are still waiting for the huge potential for power generation from the Bristol Channel, the worlds second largest tidal range and free source of power to the country. I am sure I.K. Brunnel would have jumped at the opportunity to build it.

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