A review of tidal energy - Resource, feedbacks, and environmental interactions

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The ocean contains a variety of renewable energy resources, little of which has been exploited. Here, we review both tidal range and tidal stream energy, with a focus on the resource, feedbacks, and environmental interactions. The review covers a wide range of timescales of relevance to tidal energy, from fortnightly (spring-neap) and semi-diurnal variability, down to array, and device-scale turbulence. When simulating the regional tidal energy resource, and to assess environmental impacts, it is necessary to account for feedbacks between the tidal array and the resource itself. We critically review various methods for simulating energy extraction, from insights gained through theoretical studies of “tidal fences” in idealized channels, to realistic three-dimensional model studies with complex geometry and arrays of turbines represented by momentum sinks and additional turbulence due to the presence of rotors and support structures. We discuss how variability can be reduced by developing multiple (aggregated) sites with a consideration of the enhanced phase diversity offered by exploiting less energetic tidal currents. This leads to future research questions that have not yet been explored in depth at first-generation tidal sites in relatively sheltered channels (e.g., the interaction of waves with currents). Such enhanced understanding of real sea conditions, including the effects of wind and waves, leads to our other identified primary future research direction—reduced uncertainties in turbulence predictions, including the development of realistic models that simulate the interaction between ambient turbulence and the turbulence resulting from multiple wakes, and changes to system-wide hydrodynamics, water quality, and sedimentation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number062702
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Issue number6
Early online date26 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021
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