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Tidal Power, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The enormous potential of harnessing the movement of the tides to provide electrical power is leading to the development of many tidal generating facilities.  Much of recent development has been centered in Europe and the UK.  One of the largest projects is located in the La Rance estuary in France.  Completed in 1966, the project generates 600 million kilowatt-hours per year.
The Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland rim the Scapa Flow, an underwater formation that is almost ideal for harvesting tidal power and the site of several installations.  The Scottish Government hopes to generate 1,600 megawatts of tidal power over the mid-term.
The main benefit of tidal power, in comparison with other forms of renewable energy, is its predictability.  The timing and force of tides can be predicted with great accuracy, and thus so can the power produced by a plant.  The main drawback of this power source is its high initial equipment cost, which runs many times that of conventional power sources.
In a traditional tidal energy plant, a dam is constructed that opens temporarily in order to capture tides as they flow inward.  When the tidal flow has stopped, the dam closes.  When the tide goes out, water behind the dam is released which powers a turbine in a manner similar to traditional hydroelectric power generation.  These systems work best when there is a dramatic difference, at least 16 feet, between low tide and high tide.
The HS1000 tidal turbine is a radical design from ANDRITZ HYDRO Hammerfest of Norway.  It is a tidal mill that looks a lot like a land-based wind turbine.  This tidal mill consists of three 30-foot-long blades and weighs 180 tons.  This design offers several benefits, including minimal interference with sea life.
ScottishPower Renewables (a subsidiary of wind energy company Iberdrola) received approval from the Scottish Government and is developing a 10-megawatt tidal power array in The Sound of Islay using 10 of the HS1000 tidal turbines.  The firm is also testing its tidal turbines at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney.  Meanwhile, EMEC is partnering with the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to develop tidal power in Southeast Asia.  The partnership is the fifth signed between EMEC and universities and organizations in Asia.
Another tidal power development with potential is the Archimedes Wave Swing (AWS), a large, submersed telescopic cylinder filled with air.  Inside is a “floater” that moves up and down as pressure surrounding the cylinder changes due to waves.  That movement, which corresponds with the ebb and flow of the tide, is converted to electricity via a linear generator.  Each AWS unit is about 39 feet in diameter and has an average output of 2.5 megawatts in a rough sea (producing about 5 gigawatts per year).  The system has been tested in a pilot plant off the coast of Portugal.  A company called AWS Ocean Energy Ltd. ( tested a small-scale model of its ASW-III prototype on Loch Ness in Scotland, and completed a large-scale installation at Lyness Pier, Orkney.  The firm’s 16-kilowatt AWS converter was created by joining two sub-assemblies in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021.  The converter was tested in 2022, generating more than 10 kilowatts of power during a period of moderate wave conditions, with peaks of 80 kilowatts.  AWS Ocean Energy says the AWS unit can operate in up to Force 10 gales.  More testing was planned for 2023 and beyond.
Another ocean-driven technology uses “wave energy converters,” which have been tested in waters near New Jersey, Hawaii, Scotland, England and Western Australia.  The converters are semi-submerged cylinders of almost 400 feet in length and more than 11 feet in diameter.  The cylinders are jointed and undulate in wave action like snakes.  The energy of the wave action is resisted by hydraulic rams in the joints.  The rams then pump high-pressure fluid into chambers that feed the fluid to a motor.  The motor, in turn, drives a generator that creates electricity.  Power from all the joints is transported down an umbilical cable connecting the cylinder to a junction on the sea floor that consolidates the power and sends it to shore via another cable connection.  The cylinders are designed to work in concert, connected by mooring lines, forming a wave “farm.”
Irish firm OpenHydro installed a 16-meter turbine off the French coast near Paimpol-Brehat in Brittany.  Each turbine weighs 850 tons, with enough capacity to power 4,000 French homes.  French nuclear technology and defense company DCNS owns a controlling interest in OpenHydro.
Australian company Carnegie Clean Energy (, formerly Carnegie Wave Energy, has developed large buoys using its CETO technology than can generate 240-kilowatts each.  Measuring 11-meters across, the buoys are made of steel.  They are filled with seawater and foam that allows them to float well below the surface.  This is critical to efficient tidal power technology, since equipment that floats on top of the ocean is vulnerable to damage by storms and constant wave battering.
Another breakthrough in wave power is Oregon-based Northwest Energy Innovations’ Azura, a 20-kilowatt wave energy converter that absorbs energy through up-and-down wave motion, as well as back-and-forth motion.  Azura was undergoing testing at the U.S. Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site in Hawaii.  Azura consists of a hull submerged at a depth of 30 meters, which is topped on the surface by a float that rotates 360 degrees, reducing mechanical stress and making failures less likely.  See for more details.
The latest in energy generation underwater is the adoption of inverted wind turbines for use below the surface of the ocean.   The turbines are connected to a rotor with variable pitch blades that are powered by ocean currents.  Aquantis (, a Santa Barbara, California company, plans to begin deployment of a 200-megawatt field of underwater turbines in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida.  The Gulf Stream’s constant flow may increase cost effectiveness, and a variety of turbine designs may be applicable to sea currents.
For shallower water, Eco Wave Power Ltd. ( developed 10-foot floating devices that attach to marine structures such as piers and jetties.  The devices use the rise and fall of waves to generate electricity.  The firm had a 100-kilowatt facility in Gibraltar that was upgraded and moved to Los Angeles in late 2022.  Eco Wave Power has an additional program in Israel, the EWP-EDF One project in the Port of Jaffa, that began sending clean electricity to the Israeli National Electrical grid in January 2024.
A variation on the tidal theme is energy capture from tidal streams.  The technology utilizes underwater turbines similar to wind turbines which can be secured to the seabed or attached in an inverted position to the bottom of a floating platform.  The technology is more advanced than wave systems, with installations in the East River in New York City, Canada’s Bay of Fundy, and in waters in China, France, Japan, the Netherlands and the UK.  Enel Green Power ( is active in tidal stream technology, producing three-bladed horizontal-axis turbines.  Orbital Marine Power ( developed a floating turbine called Orbital O2.  It is a 236-foot turbine anchored near the Orkney Islands in Scotland.  The Orbital O2 can power 2,000 homes and offset more than 2,400 tons of carbon per year.

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