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Amongst the multitude of renewable energy sources that are being touted as having great potential, there is ocean wave energy and tidal energy (energy from tides and energy from currents). Every year, advancements are made in these fields which are making ocean wave energy and tidal energy increasingly economically and environmentally feasible.
Energy from tides is perhaps the most promising of all the ocean alternative energy sources, as tides are completely regular and predictable. Energy from tides is generated in areas of high tidal movement, where the difference between the low and high tide is at least 4.8 meters. An enormous amount of electricity can be generated in this way in places such as the Bay of Fundy, which has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world (over 15 meters). This means that over 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of the bay each day.
Energy from tides is generated by building a barrage, through which water flows which is moving due to the effect of the tide. This water then runs turbines, which in turn generate electricity. Tidal energy can also be tapped into by using the tidal currents which are 20 to 30 meters below the surface. In this case, underwater turbines are used like those that you can see on wind farms, but adapted for underwater use. The rotors can be up to 20 meters in diameter. Such rotors, which generate energy from currents, are favored by many above barrages as they have less of an environmental impact.
Ocean wave energy has enormous potential simply due to the large number of locations where this energy could be harnessed. Wave energy generation is, however, more problematic than tidal energy generation because waves are unpredictable and the technology installed has to be able to cope with all possible wave sizes, including those that occur in severe storms. The most common type of wave power machine is an oscillating water column, which is located just below the surface of the sea. It rises and falls, which in turn compresses and depresses an air column attached to it, the moving air which result then powers a turbine.
Researchers developing alternative energy technologies that are connected with the sea have a specific set of problems to deal with – the sea is a very harsh environment and it is naturally corrosive to many elements. Scientists are busy as we speak finding ways to overcome these challenges, and harness the limitless power of the ocean. One way or another, if its not ocean based alternative energy that ultimately takes over fossil fuels, one or more of the alternative energy sources will get there some time in the not too distant future, be it solar, wind power, or whatever else: the world is relying on it.
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