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Tidal power is an exciting free energy source!

Tidal power, sometimes called tidal energy, is a form of hydropower that converts the energy of tides into electricity or other useful forms of power.

Although not yet widely used, tidal power has potential for future electricity generation. Tides are more predictable than wind energy and solar power. Historically, tide mills have been used, both in Europe and on the Atlantic coast of the USA. The earliest occurrences date from the Middle Ages, or even from Roman times.

Tidal power is the only form of energy which derives directly from the relative motions of the Earth-Moon system, and to a lesser extent from the Earth-Sun system. The tidal forces produced by the Moon and Sun, in combination with Earth's rotation, are responsible for the generation of the tides. Other sources of energy originate directly or indirectly from the Sun, including fossil fuels, conventional hydroelectric, wind, biofuels, wave power and solar. Nuclear is derived using radioactive material from the Earth, geothermal power uses the heat of magma below the Earth's crust, which comes from radioactive decay.

Tidal energy is generated by the relative motion of the Earth, Sun and the Moon, which interact via gravitational forces. Periodic changes of water levels, and associated tidal currents, are due to the gravitational attraction by the Sun and Moon. The magnitude of the tide at a location is the result of the changing positions of the Moon and Sun relative to the Earth, the effects of Earth rotation, and the local shape of the sea floor and coastlines.

Because the Earth's tides are caused by the tidal forces due to gravitational interaction with the Moon and Sun, and the Earth's rotation, tidal power is practically inexhaustible and classified as a renewable energy source.

A tidal energy generator uses this phenomenon to generate energy. The stronger the tide, either in water level height or tidal current velocities, the greater the potential for tidal energy generation.

Tidal movement causes a continual loss of mechanical energy in the Earth-Moon system due to pumping of water through the natural restrictions around coastlines, and due to viscous dissipation at the seabed and in turbulence. This loss of energy has caused the rotation of the Earth to slow in the 4.5 billion years since formation. During the last 620 million years the period of rotation has increased from 21.9 hours to the 24 hours[3] we see now; in this period the Earth has lost 17% of its rotational energy. While tidal power may take additional energy from the system, increasing the rate of slowdown, the effect would be noticeable over millions of years only, thus being negligible.

Tidal power can be classified into three main types:

  • Tidal stream systems make use of the kinetic energy of moving water to power turbines, in a similar way to windmills that use moving air. This method is gaining in popularity because of the lower cost and lower ecological impact compared to barrages.
  • Barrages make use of the potential energy in the difference in height (or head) between high and low tides. Barrages are essentially dams across the full width of a tidal estuary, and suffer from very high civil infrastructure costs, a worldwide shortage of viable sites, and environmental issues.
  • Tidal lagoons, are similar to barrages, but can be constructed as self contained structures, not fully across an estuary, and are claimed to incur much lower cost and impact overall. Furthermore they can be configured to generate continuously which is not the case with barrages.

Modern advances in turbine technology may eventually see large amounts of power generated from the ocean, especially tidal currents using the tidal stream designs but also from the major thermal current systems such as the Gulf Stream, which is covered by the more general term marine current power. Tidal stream turbines may be arrayed in high-velocity areas where natural tidal current flows are concentrated such as the west and east coasts of Canada, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Bosporus, and numerous sites in Southeast Asia and Australia. Such flows occur almost anywhere where there are entrances to bays and rivers, or between land masses where water currents are concentrated.