TURNING TIDAL: EARTHRISE 21Dec11
The European Union has set a target of 20% of its energy needs coming from renewable sources by 2020. To make this happen, they will have to harness the power of wind sun and the sea…. In the first of a series of films I’m making for EARTHRISE, I travelled to the coast of Northern Ireland to explore the potential of tidal power
TURNING TIDAL explores the potential of tidal power as a renewable energy resource and visits the world’s first and largest commercial tidal turbine that’s been built in Northern Ireland. The waters of Strangford Lough, near Belfast run cold, fast and deep, and are some of the fastest tidal areas in the world. Under the surface lies a submerged turbine that looks like a cross between an airplane propeller and a windmill converting the energy of tidal flows into electricity. Green, clean and unlikely to harm marine life, the 300 tonne turbine is generating enough electricity to power 1000 houses.
Tidal generators can harvest the energy of these moving streams, with the added advantage that the resource is predictable unlike wind, is not dependent on annual rainfall like freshwater hydropower plants, and does not shut down at night like solar plants.
With 50% of Europe’s tidal resource around the UK, there lays an immense, potential, largely untapped resource of clean energy. It is estimated that harnessing the power of the seas, using wave and tidal generation methods, could meet the electricity demand of 15 million UK homes every year. Maximizing the full potential of marine energy could save up to 70m tones of Co2 by 2050, with the marine energy sector also providing up to 16,000 jobs.
Earthrise broadcasts on Al Jazeera English and explores solutions to today’s environmental challenges, taking an upbeat look at ecological, scientific, technological and design projects the world over. Our reporters will meet inspiring individuals and communities leading the way in a field no one can afford to ignore.
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