5 Disadvantages of Tidal Energy Explained

Disadvantages of tidal energy are; high capital cost, geographic limitation, ecologic impact, maintenance challenges, and technological immaturity.


This article discusses the disadvantages of tidal energy, as follows;






1). High Capital Cost (as one of the Disadvantages of Tidal Energy)

The biggest problem with tidal power is the capital cost required to commence and manage projects in tidal energy development.

Per kW, tidal energy costs between US$ 0.11-0.2 on average, although this may reach $0.28 (or $280 per MW) and beyond [2]. Such values are several times the cost of electricity from other renewable energy resources like solar and wind.

Tidal energy is expensive mainly because the technology has not undergone sufficient phases of modification to become subsidized.

Factors that contribute to the total cost of tidal energy projects include offshore foundation, main turbine, installation, and water flow-control [7].

The high cost of hardware components of tidal power plants can also be explained by the fact that these components are designed to combine maximum mechanical resilience with energy efficiency, since they are constantly in contact with water masses that have high density, pressure, velocity and salinity.

Maintenance is also associated with some challenges, as discussed subsequently in this article.

Disadvantages of Tidal Energy: High Capital Cost (Credit: Albert Bridge 2008 .CC BY-SA 2.0.)
Disadvantages of Tidal Energy: High Capital Cost (Credit: Albert Bridge 2008 .CC BY-SA 2.0.)






2). Geographic Limitation

The types of locations that are good for a tidal power plant are location with accessible water depth, stable and predictable flow trend, and significant tidal activity.

Tidal power is limited to offshore locations that combine all requirements for effective energy harnessing; like bay areas. Because such suitable locations are not plentiful, it is often challenging to select a site for tidal energy projects while conserving cost and minimizing socioeconomic risk.






3). Ecologic Impact (as one of the Disadvantages of Tidal Energy)

The ecologic impact of tidal energy can be assessed based on its environmental impact, and how it affects living organisms in the ecosystem.

When installed in coastal zones, tidal system components like barrages can affect the feeding patterns of coastal species like birds [1].

Tidal turbines, among other related facilities, tend to interact directly and interfere with the activities of seawater organisms like fish. Such facilities can alter natural water flow patterns, oxygen and nutrient distribution, to an extent that could even pose a threat to marine organic survival.

Turbine blades can cause injury or death of organisms with which it comes in contact.

In spite of these drawbacks, it is important to acknowledge that tidal energy is eco-friendly relative to other energy resources and technologies.

Tidal energy does not emit greenhouse gases, contribute to air pollution, or have any significant tendency to pollute the environment [3].






4). Maintenance Challenges

Tidal energy is low maintenance compared to other energy technologies like coal power plants.

However, there are some notable challenges involved in the maintenance of tidal energy systems.

Because of the terrain in which tidal energy systems must operate, they face problems of corrosion, poor accessibility, and susceptibility to undercurrent damage.

Components like tidal barrages often experience rapid silt accumulation, which reduces efficiency if left unchecked.

The challenge of accessibility means that the supply chain of tidal energy maintenance materials and services is not very efficient or reliable [6]. In the absence of rapid response to replace damaged components and repair faulty ones, tidal energy development is not always a good option.

Disadvantages of Tidal Energy: Maintenance Challenges (Credit: Fundy 2007)
Disadvantages of Tidal Energy: Maintenance Challenges (Credit: Fundy 2007)






5). Technological Immaturity (as one of the Disadvantages of Tidal Energy)

Even in comparison to other ocean-based energy forms, tidal energy technology is immature, and has gone through minimal development as of yet [5].

The reason why tidal energy technology is immature, is because there has not been sufficient research and development in the field, to devise better systems for harnessing tidal energy, or even to acquire a thorough understanding of how tidal energy is naturally produced.

Also, the adoption of tidal energy has been slow across the globe, further contributing to its impeded growth.

Countries are slow to adopt tidal power as a usable form of electricity, because of the geographic limitations involved, as there are not many countries with access to multiple suitable sites for tidal energy development.

While there have been some researches carried out on tidal energy concepts in recent years, most of these have only provided a more intensive analysis of already existing tidal technologies [4].

Technological immaturity is a major drawback for tidal energy, since it affects the cost, and usability of this energy form.







Disadvantages of tidal energy are;

1. High Capital Cost

2. Geographic Limitation

3. Ecologic Impact

4. Maintenance Challenges

5. Technological Immaturity







1). Frid, C. L. J.; Andonegi, E.; DepesteleN J.; Judd, A.; Rihan, D.; Rogers, S. I.; Kenchington, E. L. (2011). "The environmental interactions of tidal and wave energy generation devices." Environmental Impact Assessment Review Environmental Impact Assessment Review 32: 133-139(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2011.06.002. (Accessed 10 February 2023).

2). Iyengar, R. (2021). "These companies are using oceans and rivers to generate electricity." Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/11/tech/tidal-energy-climate-change-renewable/index.html. (Accessed 10 February 2023).

3). Ma, Z.; Li, B.; Liu, Y. (2021). "Research on the environmental impact of tidal power generation in China." Appl Nanosci (2021). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13204-021-01994-2. (Accessed 10 February 2023).

4). Mehmood, N.; Liang, Z.; Khan, J. (2012). "Harnessing Ocean Energy by Tidal Current Technologies." Research Journal of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology 4(18). Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264851747_Harnessing_Ocean_Energy_by_Tidal_Current_Technologies. (Accessed 10 February 2023).

5). Neill, S. P.; Angeloudis, A.; Robins, P. E.; Walkington, I. A.; Ward, S. L.; Masters, I.; Lewis, M.; Piano, M.; Avdis, A.; Piggott, M. D.; Aggidis, G. A.; Evans, P.; Adcock,.T. A. A.; Zidonis, A.; Ahmadian, R.; Falconer, R. A. (2018). "Tidal range energy resource and optimization – Past perspectives and future challenges." Renewable Energy In Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2018.05.007. (Accessed 10 February 2023).

6). Segura, E.; Morales, R.; Somolinos, J. A.; López, A. (2017). "Techno-economic challenges of tidal energy conversion systems: Current status and trends." Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 77:536-550. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2017.04.054. (Accessed 10 February 2023).

7). Vazquez, A.; Iglesias, G. (2016). "Capital costs in tidal stream energy projects – A spatial approach." Proceedings of the ICE - Energy 107:215-226. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2016.03.123. (Accessed 10 February 2023).

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