With all of the focus on the Cape Cod Wind Farm, I wanted to remind people of other ways to generate electricity via the ocean, using tidal forces.

Have a look at this terrific animated graphic in the NYT:

click for animation


Generating Electricity by Going With the Flow
NYT, April 21, 2010

Category: Energy, Technology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

30 Responses to “Tidal Electrical Generation”

  1. JohnDoe says:

    I like the tidal idea for energy as it is a lot easier to plan for whereas wind and solar are very unpredictable.

  2. Super-Anon says:

    Who makes these?

    Might as well get the Tidal Energy Bubble started sooner rather than later!

  3. orangeshirt says:

    The eco-nazis will hate this one, too. It’ll munch fish, I’m sure. And of course, the life of a fish is VERY important. VERY!

  4. ned says:

    I like tidal, but I think this is even better:
    They’re a startup, but the idea seems sound, and I don’t see any obvious technical hurdles to overcome. They’re planning to run a small test plant this summer.

    I’m a mechanical engineer with industry experience in both fuel cells and solar cells. I have zero financial interest in the company above. I sort of wish that I did.

  5. willid3 says:

    wonder why we ignore geothermal? about the only negative is that its not available every where. but thats true of ever thing else too

  6. MikeG says:

    I can guess these will have hella maintenance costs.

  7. hgordon says:


    They were raising $2m to build the first unit. Assuming a 250kW generator cost $500k in production, that would actually be pretty good. In comparison, the Bloom fuel cell system generates 100kW and costs $800k, plus you still need to feed it natural gas.

    Biggest problem is probably keeping the unit clear of kelp, seaweed, and bag fish (floating trash).

  8. Chris Rich says:

    There is another water system, hydrokinetics, This works with flow rates of rivers without need for a dam.

    http://www.free-flow-power.com/ is one of the start ups. They’ve already even tended to the fish chew problem, to the extent that it is.

  9. John says:

    Place them along the bottoms of rivers, too.


    Yes, the eco-nazis will oppose tidal energy, just as they oppose energy derived from oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, etc.

  10. The eco-nazis will hate this one, too. It’ll munch fish, I’m sure.

    Of course, the fish would take one look at the thing and say, “FISH AMUSEMENT PARK DUDE!” :)

  11. SOP says:

    Tidal Power has been under consideration by at least some of THE top minds of the oil industry:

    For Example: Matt Simons, chairman of Simmons & Company,” the only independent investment bank specializing in the entire spectrum of the energy industry” started the following Think Tank:


    @willed3: we do not ignore geothermal as an energy source Geothermal is a viable energy source but is available in only a few areas of the country (world):

    “Oregon town uses geothermal energy to stay warm”

    The big question is can these technologies be developed and deployed in sufficient quantities to off-set declines in fossil fuel production (replacing the lost oil energy with tidal electric). The answer to that question from the people who seriously study global energy problems is a resounding, “NO.”

    Like all alternative energy systems, ocean energy has a niche, but it is not a “silver bullet” for the energy crisis we will be enduring for the next several decades.

  12. willid,

    good Q: .. though, there is ‘hot-rock’ geothermal, and its more widely available cousin ‘ground-source heatpumps’..

    which are, on average, ~40% more efficient than standard, air-to-air, heatpumps..
    though, before we get too cavalier about the ‘unimportance’ of Fish..


  13. JustinTheSkeptic says:

    I still haven’t figure out why we don’t make it mandatory for everyone to get on there government issued, stationary bicycle and pump some energy on to the grid. Let’s face it us fat asses could use it and we’d be doing old greeny a favor…peace, love, and soul.

  14. bobk says:

    That thing does look an awful lot like a lawnmower. Throw a few of those in the East River so orangeshirt can get an impression of how VERY economically important the migratory striped bass population is. Like to see him try telling a B&T owner that he’s an eco-nazi sometime, and then he could let us know what happens next.

  15. napster says:

    Yikes, they are no more relevant then the skin-head nazi’s who are white and proud of their guns. So why even drag out that straw man to beat?

    As gordan says, it will all come down to cost and benefit analysis, no matter what version of nazism you want to bring up into the argument.

    And that cost and benefit analysis indicates tidal energy can create electric potential more durable than oil, nuclear, sun, wind, and gas — which is why this is seriously being discussed. It is essentially no different that using dams, except it is less intrusive since it occurs on the bottom of the sea floor. The engineering design can keep the units easy to maintain and free of sea debris.

  16. Chief Tomahawk says:

    That’s going to grind up a lot of octopi!

  17. The Curmudgeon says:

    Here’s an idea for energy conservation: Tax fat. Not in the foods; on the humans’ bodies. Then you could buy all the cheap oil and gas you wish, without concern that it would bankrupt the treasury. And if Americans actually lost weight because of the taxes, you wouldn’t need to buy so much oil and gas, presto–two problems solved with one elegant solution.

  18. also, ‘Tidal Energy’ is nothing new:



    “…Phase 2 Demonstration Completed
    Verdant Power recently achieved a major milestone by successfully completing the RITE Project’s Phase 2 Demonstration, which began in 2006 with the installation of the company’s first full-scale (5m diameter rotor) Free Flow System turbine into the East River…”

  19. riverrat says:

    The eco-nazi comments are straight out of the Glen Beck playbook and as such are counterproductive. Take your straw men home, please, and come back when you have something useful to contribute.

    An eco-realist simply asks that all benefits and costs, including externalities such as the potential scale of fish mortality, be considered before jumping the gun. Personally, I think tidal power generation shows good potential as part of a suite of other technologies to harvest renewables, including solar, geothermal, and wind. There is a lot of research being done on it here in Oregon. The life of a small number of fish may not matter much, but the loss of entire populations could be possible if tidal energy were implemented on a large scale. If the fish species in question had value as food, this would affect jobs and a healthy protein source. And the species might also be an important cog in a functioning marine ecosystem- look up “trophic cascade”.

    The DOD just retracted its hold on a huge windfarm in the eastern part of our state, which was over concerns about interference with a radar installation. It will be one of the largest wind energy projects in the country, ~350 individual turbines across 30,000 acres. Will generate a lot of jobs while being constructed and a lot of power once completed, something like 850mw.

    One of the main concerns with wind energy is the number of birds (mainly raptors) and bats that get taken out by the turbines. But who cares about birds and bats? Oh, wait, birds and bats eat millions of harmful insects (grasshoppers, mosquitoes) that would otherwise devour crops and spread disease..

    In the end, I think a successful renewable energy strategy will involve use of many different technologies, in locations where they make the most sense, in a less centralized fashion and with fewer eggs in one basket than has been the case with fossil fuels.

  20. [...] Barry Ritholtz  il nous montre cette marée motrice comme source d’énergie [...]

  21. S Brennan says:

    Thanks for posting this Barry, my two cents about where to go to stop the bull poop…from my FBook yesterday


    5 workers got bagged up in Anacortes, WA when a refinery in exploded, 29 miners bit the coal dust W Virginia, 11 oil rig workers sent to Davy Jones locker…we’re talking a single month.

    A major oil spill after oil rig explodes…and the best Democrats & Republicans can come up with is “Drill Baby Drill”.

    How many people have died in US Nuclear power plant accidents? Zero you say…

    Thorium Reactors. With a radioactive output 1/500th a conventional reactor, a radioactive output that has a half life in hundreds of years [500 years], a reactor core that can not sustain a nuclear reaction without energy input, if it over heats…fission stops and a reactor that can “burn” highly radio active waste. When will the “Greens” realize that nuclear reactors can be “green”

    NOW. I love solar, but it’s useless for base load without a massive battery storage infrastructure to smooth out peak demand and that is very, very un-green.

    Thorium the promise of Fusion…NOW, not some dreamy future date…to be named later.

    Read up on it and tell your friends. Go electric NOW, Dump, oil and coal.

    Coal fired plants produce more toxic nuclear waste than nuclear power plants, or weapons fallout combined…and coat the earth with a fine uranium dust that is inhaled by every human…every animal on the planet.

    Coal fired plants produce more toxic mercury waste than all other sources combined…and that coats the earth. It is why open ocean fishes and polar bears have such a high concentration of it in their bodies.

    Coal fired plants destroy whole mountain ranges in Appalachia and other locals.

    We can still have a modern life without turning the world into a toxic waste dump for our children. Offsets are a joke, only a loser couldn’t game them.

    Go Thorium, Go electric car, Go LED…and laugh at people who say “clean coal”

    Yesterday at 10:07am

  22. jswap says:

    Pretty cool, but “will it blend?” (people, fish, dolphins)

  23. Pocket QQ says:

    Highway Traffic has potential, the infrastructure is already in place.


  24. dsawy says:

    The issue with geothermal (the “hot” geothermal – such as one sees in Iceland) power is that it is pretty complicated to drill successful wells down into what are often fault lines, into water that is hotter than the boiling point, with high dissolved solids. In short, it is a pretty hostile situation. Our power co-op in Nevada got into a hydrothermal well deal near Lovelock, NV – and barely got out with their shirts still on. There were unexpected expenses piled one atop another.

    An investor-owned utility ended up buying the project; don’t know what the status of the wells are today.

    Then, when in actual operation, geothermal heat it is not an “inexhaustible” resource. The Geysers, a California geothermal generation plant, shows that it is possible to extract heat from a geothermal resource faster than it will “recharge.” This is easily curable – just don’t try to extract more power than can be replenished into the geothermal resource. It has taken them more that 20 years to learn what the sustainable recharge rate is, tho.

    In general, you’re going to find significant geothermal resources where there are earthquake faults. California east of the Sierras, northern Nevada (north Washoe County, especially north of the Black Rock Desert, northern Eureka County, and Churchill County contain some of the best resources), western Utah, northwestern Wyoming all have significant quake faults – and significant geothermal resources. The resources in NW Wyoming are probably not going to ever be exploited, because of the hue and cry of doing anything like power development near Yellowstone. Many of the resources in UT and NV are effectively off-limits thanks to the BLM permitting process and protests from environmentalists – or outright wilderness designation putting them off-limits.

  25. hgordon,

    your link rang a bell..

    the DoD, in Hawaii, is using power-generating buoys..

    vertical, instead of rotational..

  26. LLouis says:

    A prototype of hydro-turbine (hydrolienne in french) will be installed in 2011 in the St-Lawrence river near Montreal. This a project of a french-Quebec consortium, Sabella Énergie (from the french firm Sabella SAS and Quebec firms SPG Hydro International and Envitech Énergie). They will adapt the tidal turbine prototype of Sabella SAS to work with the river current.


    Sabella SAS researched for damage or disturbance (ecological footprint) on the fauna for their Sabella D03 turbine prototype and didn’t find any.


  27. and, with a different spin..

    Germans Are Paid to Use Excess Power Generated from Wind Turbines
    May 3rd, 2010

    Wind is an intermittent power source, so feast or famine situations are possible. There are several options for capturing excess energy for later release into the grid, but high-energy flywheels probably make the most sense:…
    gotta love the omnicience of Central Planning..

  28. dsawy says:

    The problem with wind power is that it isn’t “base load” power that can be scheduled.

    Without large-scale power storage options in the grid, there are only the following options for a utility that has wind power:

    1. Feather some wind turbines and reduce the generation capacity of the turbine farm.
    2. Find some intermittent load that can soak up the excess power in the grid.
    3. “Push back” on base load power that the utility has – ie, spin down a coal/nuke/gas generation plant.

    The third option is the most expensive, and some generation plants (eg, coal) don’t spin up/spin down well. Natural gas “peaker” plants do much better.

    Until we solve the power storage issue, ephemeral non-base load power sources (such as the above wave power, wind power, solar power) can create more problems for the utility than they solve. The power market wants to be able to schedule power – eg, “we want 50 megawatts every day between May and October from 1500 to 2000 local time – for the next five years.”

    We’re getting closer on the storage issue, but we’re not there yet.