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Tidal power – the future of renewable energy?

There’s a growing concern regarding global warming, as atmospheric carbon dioxide has recently reached 399.00ppm (July 2014), compared to levels in December 2013 (396.81ppm) and December 2012 (394.28ppm). To combat these rising levels of atmospheric CO2, targets are in place for the UK to source 15% of their energy via renewable means, by 2020. Therefore, it’s vital to look at all renewable options available.

In a 2010 case study, Patrick Devine-Wright talks of tidal power’s ‘social potential’ (Devine-Wright, 83), given that it has yet to fully take-off in the same manner as wind and solar power. Following research into public response, it was suggested that tidal power was welcomed as a method of renewable energy, dispelling the supposed ‘Not In My Back Yard’ (NIMBY) stance towards renewable energy solutions. The negative NIMBY response is based largely on aesthetics, especially concerning onshore wind farms. However, since tidal lagoons are located offshore, evidence shows that aesthetic concerns aren’t as much of an issue.

Devine-Wright carried out surveys in two potential sites for tidal energy generators. Such questionnaires encouraged the public to give emotive responses. Aside from ‘curiosity’, the prospect of tidal power drew mostly positive responses, with consultees expressing hope and pride regarding potential developments. Over the two locations, there was little in terms of negative response, with only 10% disagreeing with the project (Devine-Wright, 89).

The general consensus deemed tidal power an effective method of renewable energy production. However, Devine-Wright also posed a number of outcome-based questions, asking consultees to interpret the consequences of tidal power. On average, the public accepted that tidal power drew a number of benefits, such as high energy production and a lessened environmental impact when compared to other renewable energy sources (Devine-Wright, 88).

As with all renewable forms of energy, there isn’t a fear that tidal power will inevitably run out, or cause significant damage to the atmosphere. In fact, one of the key benefits of tidal energy is that it is not regulated by weather conditions. Due to the predictable, consistent cycle of tides, there is a regular output of power generated. As a result, tidal power could be one of the most efficient forms of energy production available.

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Consense houses the single biggest source of public opinion on renewable energy sources. As part of an ongoing series, we will soon be publishing further pieces on other forms of renewable energy production, with an aim to compare and explore the benefits of each.

In a recent consultation, 86% of respondents answered yes to say they are in support of a proposed tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay.

Sources:

Devine-Wright, P. 2010. Enhancing local distinctiveness fosters public acceptance of tidal energy: A UK case study. Energy Policy 39. 83-93.

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