Tidal Energy: Redefining Future Energy Needs

It’s time to look back at the age when fossil fuels were in abundance and there was no shortage of electricity. But the present scenario is something different, because the fossil fuel reserves are depleting at an alarming rate. Contradicting the fact that fossil fuels will vanish in the near future, it is often claimed that “we have enough coal reserves to meet our demands.” But the reports reveal, if the rate at which the world consumes fossil fuels is not standing still, then the results would be disastrous, and there would be only enough energy to take us as far as 2088. Then, What next!

The only answer to all these questions and concerns is “development of renewable energy.” As the word defines itself, the energy which is replenishable like wind, solar, tidal and many more. Moreover, except tidal energy others are in their developmental stage. Though tidal energy has immense potential to appease the energy needs, but it’s still to be harnessed.

Tidal energy is one of its kind as it is available in abundance and so versatile in nature that, it can be harnessed in various ways, namely ocean wave, tidal range, tidal current, ocean current, ocean thermal energy and salinity gradient. But except Tidal Range Technology, others are yet to be conceptualized.

Ocean Wave and Tidal Range Energy technology are considered to be the most advanced and are expected to cater the whooping energy needs in the future. The present scenario of development ponders upon the challenges to develop a prototype, that enhances the possibilities of future development. Some of the challenges include enhancing reliability and robustness, thus reducing overall costs with the successful deployment of risk reduction techniques.

Overcoming the challenges is not only the matter of concern, but also there are some technological barriers which need to be sorted out before the successful implementation of the technology.

Though 71% of the total earths’ surface is covered with oceans, but it’s not feasible to harness the energy of all. So, Resource Assessment and Forecasting plays an inevitable role towards the characterization and mapping of tidal energy resources. The assessment of  tidal energy includes identification of the areas with high, medium and low wave energy resources. It also helps in deploying technology to fetch crucial parameters such as: significant wave height, wave energy period and mean wave flow direction. These precise estimates of available wave energy resources are very essential for the proper planning and optimization for the implementation of the technology.

Overlooking the technological factors, there are also some arbitrary factors which tend to be a barrier for the development of tidal energy. One of them is The Regulatory and Legal Affairs. According to The US Convention of the Law of the Sea, there is a legal framework to use the oceans. According to the convention, territorial sea encompasses the coastal waters upto 12 nautical miles from the baseline. Territorial sea comprises the sovereign territory of the state and gives full authority over water, sea bed and subsoil. The territorial waters exclusive economic zone extends upto 200 nautical miles from the baseline where a country possesses the rights to explore, research and conserve the resource. As most of the energy devices need to be installed in the territorial waters, it proves to be a barrier for performing the R&D process.

Thus, overcoming the barriers can prove to be a step towards developing a never ending energy resource.

                                                                                                                        Sagar Bhattacharjee