The Herman Trend Alert
November 24 2021
Harnessing the Power of the Tides
Most people don't know it, but for years the British government has been using its tides on the Thames to generate electricity. Now, far north of London and the Thames, some researchers have launched a much more ambitious experiment. This Herman Trend Alert details how the power of the tides is being harnessed and harvested in the far north of Scotland.
Time and Tides
Unlike wind and solar that are dependent on the wind blowing and the sun shining, tides always turn. . . and when they do, it is always at the time they are expected. The key is to control that limitless motion that never ceases in a cost-effective way that generates renewable electricity.
Where this Experiment is Happening
Nestled between The Shetland Islands and Scotland's Mainland are The Orkney Islands. This archipelago is known for its "tidal races." Tidal Races happen when fast-moving tides pass through narrow land masses, causing the formation of waves, eddies, and hazardous currents---ideal for harvesting energy from the ocean. In fact, The Orkneys are so perfect that they have hosted no less than 34 experimental marine energy devices---more than anywhere else in the world.
Providing a Double Benefit
Imagine an enormous oil reserve that will never run dry, and you have an idea of the amount of kinetic energy available from the sea in this unique area. But this power is not the only advantage afforded by this project. These researchers want to take the ocean energy and use it in land-based machines that can separate water into oxygen and what is called "green hydrogen." Their idea is to use these gas bubbles to power whiskey distilleries and perhaps eventually to heat buildings and power passenger ferries and small aircraft.
Two Decades in Development
The ocean in the area is littered with failed ocean energy prototypes now rusting on the sea bottom---a virtual graveyard for start-ups that never went anywhere. Now, after 20 years of trial-and-error, people in the know believe they are finally making sufficient progress that the tidal machines can begin competing successfully with solar and wind generation---at least within the decade.
How One of the Devices Works
Turn an offshore wind turbine upside-down into the ocean, allowing the tidal currents to turn its rotor blades. The machine is 240 feet long and has a 200-foot wingspan; its turbine is the size of a Boeing 747. Once moored, the turbine attaches itself to the bottom of the channel and lowers its wings. The tidal flow turns the blades of the turbine, energizing the generators on the wings. When the tide turns, the rotors automatically reverse and continue taking power from the flow. The wings' generators produce electricity which in turn, charges the turbine's large batteries. Plus, through a large cable, the electricity is also directed from the turbine to the onshore power grid. And this device is only one of the several machines being tested.
Other Tidal Power Projects around the Globe
Competing projects are at work along the coasts of China, France, South Korea, and Canada. In the United States, there have been demonstration projects in Maine and Washington state, and one in the East River in New York City.
We think that this tidal project is only the beginning. However, with the harsh conditions in the Orkneys, these devices must survive in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. That said, the planet needs ocean power technologies to succeed, and this technology is advancing rapidly. Expect these devices to be the beginning of a burgeoning industry, destined to make significant waves (pun intended) in the future.
Special thanks to the Washington Post and author William Booth; to read the entire article, visit here.
Next Week's Herman Trend Alert: The Story Behind Global Supply Chain Issues
From COVID fears to pent-up demand to The Great Resignation---all of these factors have played a part is creating the mess that is our global supply chain. This Herman Trend Alert details the reasons for the chaos and how and when we may expect improvement.
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