Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tidal power traditionally involves erecting a dam across the opening to a tidal basin. The dam includes a sluice that is opened to allow the tide to flow into the basin; the sluice is then closed, and as the sea level drops, traditional hydropower technologies can be used to generate electricity from the elevated water in the basin. Some researchers are also trying to extract energy directly from tidal flow streams.
The energy potential of tidal basins is large — the largest facility, the La Rance station in France, generates 240 megawatts of power. Currently, France is the only country that successfully uses this power source. French engineers have noted that if the use of tidal power on a global level was brought to high enough levels, the Earth would slow its rotation by 24 hours every 2,000 years.
Tidal energy systems can have environmental impacts on tidal basins because of reduced tidal flow and silt buildup.
3 Ways of Using the Tidal Power of the OceanThere are three basic ways to tap the ocean for its energy. We can use the ocean's waves, we can use the ocean's high and low tides, or we can use temperature differences in the water.

How it works: Tidal Barrages
These work rather like a hydro-electric scheme, except that the dam is much bigger.
A huge dam (called a "barrage") is built across a river estuary. When the tide goes in and out, the water flows through tunnels in the dam.
The ebb and flow of the tides can be used to turn a turbine, or it can be used to push air through a pipe, which then turns a turbine. Large lock gates, like the ones used on canals, allow ships to pass.
If one was built across the Severn Estuary, the tides at Weston-super-Mare would not go out nearly as far - there'd be water to play in for most of the time.
But the Severn Estuary carries sewage and other wastes from many places (e.g. Bristol & Gloucester) out to sea. A tidal barrage would mean that this stuff would hang around Weston-super-Mare an awful lot longer!
Also, if you're one of the 80,000+ birds that feeds on the exposed mud flats when the tide goes out, then you have a problem, because the tide won't be going out properly any more.

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