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Tidal Energy

Wed, Aug 12, 2009

Energy Types

As businesses struggle to keep up with rising gas and electricity prices, scientists begin to develop newer technologies to fuel these companies and the households and consumers they serve. While researchers have conducted studies galore on several renewable energy sources like wind power and solar panels, there are some resources they haven’t tapped into as frequently (such as hydropower technology like wave and tidal energy).

Tidal Energy

Tidal energy has become popular in some coastal countries like Japan and the United Kingdom, but here in the United States, the use of energy from oceanic tides – most companies here don’t have access to a coast – isn’t as widespread.

How it Works

  • An article in the online version of the April 2007 Popular Mechanics maintains that these underwater turbines, similar to their windmill siblings above ground, “will pivot with the shifting current, which can flow as fast as 4 knots.”
  • The moving rotors then transfer energy to a rotating rod, and then to a generator, which can power the surrounding areas with the electrical energy it produced.

Advantages

  • Water turbines are a clean source of energy
  • After conducting tests in New York City’s East River, which began in 2007 and finished in 2008, researchers believed tidal energy could produce enough electricity for a few thousand homes.
  • Furthermore, according to the previously mentioned Popular Mechanics article, these turbines, despite their rotors, will do no harm to any underwater wildlife because of their slow-moving blunt edges.
  • According to the website Energy Resources , tides are predictable; despite the fact that they only flow for ten hours out of the day, it is possible to set up other stations to channel the energy.

Disadvantages

  • Not much research has been done yet to ensure that tidal energy is as efficient as other types of energy, even other hydropower sources like dams. Because of this, startup costs would be high; not many U.S. companies seem interested in investing money to harness the ocean’s energy.
  • If plants were to invest in tidal energy, they would need to be on the coast, with the company purchasing this energy in close proximity.
  • Harnessing this energy can only occur for ten hours out of an entire day, when the tide either ebbs or flows.

How to Acquire It

  • Treehugger.com reviewed a piece of equipment called the Transverse Horizontal Axis Water Turbine (Thawt) in their article entitled “Lawnmower Tidal Turbines Could Produce Electricity at Half the Price.” Evidently, the Thawt device is mechanically far less complicated than anything available today, meaning it would cost less to build and maintain.
  • While not many vendors in the United States are actively creating these turbines, you can look for updates at Marine Current Turbines . You might start by investing in one of Marine Current Turbines’ (or their partners,’ found in the “Partnerships” tab) overseas projects; companies must perfect their products before they can introduce them here in the United States.

By Fallon M. McCormick. Fallon McCormick is a second-year student at New York University, working towards a Bachelors degree in the department of Media, Culture, and Communications. You can contact her at fmm245@nyu.edu.

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