Survey of Energy Resources 2007
The Future of Tidal Power
The high capital costs associated with tidal barrage systems are likely to restrict development of this resource in the near future. The developments that do proceed in the early 21st century will most likely be associated with road and rail crossings to maximise the economic benefit. There is, however, more interest in entrainment systems now than at any time in the past 20 years and it is increasingly likely that new barrage and lagoon developments will be seen, especially in those locations which offer combination with transport infrastructure. In a future in which energy costs are likely to rise and assuming that low-cost nuclear fusion or other long-term alternatives do not make an unexpectedly early arrival, then tidal barrage schemes could prove to be a major provider of strategic energy in the late 21st century and beyond. The technology for tidal barrage systems is already available and there is no doubt, given the experience at La Rance, that the resource is substantial and available.
Full-scale prototype tidal-current systems are now being deployed. If these schemes continue to prove successful, then the first truly commercial developments will appear in the first decade of the 21st century. Tidal-current systems may not yet have the strategic potential of barrage systems but, in the short term at least, they do offer opportunities for supplying energy in rural, coastal and island communities. In the longer term, massive sites such as the Pentland Firth could become strategically important.
Institute for Energy Systems,
The University of Edinburgh, Scotland