Renewable energy (3) Wave power and tidal power

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Suitable for GCSE/IGCSE Physics/Science courses or their equivalent

The technology of wave power

Wave power: One method of using wave movement is to use its kinetic energy of up and down oscillation to compress air in a funnel and tunnel the air through a turbine connected to a generator on the sea shore. It has not so far (as I know?) proved very successful.

Advantages of wave power

The initial cost is high, but bar storm damage, the running costs are low, there is no pollution and the energy is free and non-stop!

Disadvantages of wave power

There are several problems eg variable wave height giving variable power output, storm damage is a regular risk.


Tidal power - hydroelectricity

The technology of tidal power

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun, and the flow of tides involving huge quantities of water, and a rise and fall in height of water of several metres. The incoming tide involves kinetic energy, but at the turn of high tide we now have a great store of gravitational potential energy (GPE), which on flowing back down is converted to kinetic energy. If this tidal flow can be controlled on a large scale and channelled through turbines connected to generators, then you effectively have a power station. This has been achieved by building a huge tidal barrage across a suitable estuary and building turbines and generators into the dam like structure. The incoming tide drives the turbines as does the controlled released of the huge amount of stored water (GPE) stored behind the barrage at high tide.  but the energy is free and there is no pollution and maintenance costs are low. However, there maybe some environmental cost by disrupting the local ecosystems and wildlife and leisure/commercial craft on the river. Tides are reliable and times/heights can be accurately predicted but there periods of time when the water levels are similar on both sides, therefore little effective water flow and electricity generation. It is an advantage to store huge quantities of water that can be released at electricity peak demand times.

GPE ==> kinetic energy ==> electrical energy

Advantages of tidal power

Hydroelectric dam schemes are very costly to build needing a large capital investment and take a long time to build,

Disadvantages of tidal power

Hydroelectric dam schemes are very costly to build needing a large capital investment and take a long time to build.


Energy and power supplies revision notes index

Energy resources and their uses - a general survey

Renewable energy (1) Wind power and solar power

Renewable energy (2) Hydroelectric power and geothermal power

Renewable energy (3) Wave power and tidal power

Biofuels, renewables and non-renewables

The 'National Grid' power supply


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