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Australian Tidal Generation Of Electricity

A very interesting article regarding using tidal power for renewable energy.

Gladstone Ports CEO, Peter O’Sullivan, certainly has a valid point regarding the reliability and predictability of tidal generation in contrast to solar and wind power.

My late mother often spoke about German general, Erwin Rommel, having been highly interested in the tidal generation of electricity prior to WW11.

Now all we need is for people to claim that the propellers are a threat to the sharks, crocodiles and box jellyfish.

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I recall around 15 years ago the same prophecies were made, and there have been many trials (somewhat unsuccessful or not scalable) of tidal and wave energy harvesting for power generation.

I also recall reading one of the trial reports and something like the ocean is a hostile environment and engineeringly difficult (to tame sums up the outcome from this trial).

Hopefully newer technologies prove to be more successful.


Or that extracting energy from wind and tides will slow them down (or something). It came up in the renewable energy thread:

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Ocean currents and tidal flows do play a role in the ecology of the seas in transporting nutrients, heat, salt, oxygen etc but that doesn’t mean that a tidal energy farm would significantly alter such flows. One would have to study and find out. Humans have underestimated their impact on the natural world a few times.


As I said in that other thread:

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Wind Powered Energy Generation

I don’t see the connection between what you are saying about wind and tide. Do you agree that the best policy is to measure and find out for sure rather than make any assumptions that there will or will not be any side effects?

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Air and water are both fluids. If you read on in that thread, you’ll find that there’s very little on effects of structures in water. Wind is the best model we have - and it shows no impacts of any substance.

Can we ever be “sure”? We can establish to an acceptable degree of certainty. That’s been done, IMHO.

To be clear:

  • are there effects? Undoubtedly, yes.
  • do they matter? Probably not.

On what basis do you fear that a turbine in water will have substantially greater effects than (say) a pier or breakwater? Anyway, this was all discussed at length in that thread. If you’re interested, then read through it.

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I know if you get stuck between a large wave and the turbine, it will probably have different but equally negative outcomes as getting stuck between a large wave and a pier or breakwater - unlike fish, who have no hope except to out-swim perhaps, at least our resulting treatment might appear on our ‘health record’ ?

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In small installments?

Seriously, work has been done (on wind turbines, because there are no large-scale tidal turbine installations). Beyond the immediate vicinity of the turbines, there was nothing measurable. Modelling indicated potential problems though. The upshot: don’t build turbines too close together.


Tell me Fred123, why do we need “people to claim that the propellers are a threat to the sharks, crocodiles and box jellyfish?”


Hi @Astrac, I believe that the original post was about some of the technologies which are used to harness tidal energy, that being propellers or turbines located under water.

In reality, there is potential that these turbines/propellers will be a danger to marine life. While they may rotate slower than say a boat’s propeller, the impacts of boat propellers are well known and documented.

Like any new technologies, especially those introduced to a new environment, one needs to understand the impacts of this technology on the surrounding environment.

I am probably one that thinks that there will be impacts on marine a whale for example, swimming through a tidal turbine scheme could be impacted by the rotors.


Well said @phb. As @n3m0 kindly pointed out above, tidal generation of electricity was touched upon in our renewable energy thread.

@Fred123’s original comment was in jest, but of course the ocean is an important ecosystem that helps sustain life on this planet. Energy is a very important consumer issue, and one that we feel deserves a place at the discussion table at the least. However, we are a consumer forum and as such we do not host political debates or general environmental debates that do not link with consumer issues.

With that in mind, if Community members would like to disucss tidal energy generation in more detail, we are happy to keep the discussion open for now. Please note the following points:

  • No personal attacks, please keep it friendly (our Community FAQ and policies are here for those who need a reminder)
  • No need to go over general ‘renewable energy’ debates, rather see the aforementioned thread
  • Please back up your arguments on the topic at hand and include references or reasoning
  • Please flag any behaviour that is against our terms of service, so that CHOICE staff can take appropriate action

Thanks phb.
As someone who lived on an ocean-going vessel for over seven years, I can anecdotally add some information here.
Every ocean passage I made had dolphins approach my small yacht. Either swimming in the wake of the bow or alongside, crossing our path perpendicularly in groups of hundreds, breaching then diving under the keel, or dancing in patterns in fluorescence at night time. They were always more prevalent when the engine was switched off, though the propeller would still be spinning, albeit with a reduced force.
On approaching Ballina one day, the Coast Guard transmitted a “Pan Pan”, a warning (just below “Mayday”), telling the approaching vessels there were two large adult whales heading towards us. As directed, we changed tack to avoid them. It turned out they had a calf as well, but they are very smart animals and seemed quite aware of our position.
I suggest any wave power plant should emit a mild signal to alert mammals to stay clear.


A far while back I heard of a government funded wave power experiment off the coast at Fremantle, WA. It was a series of buoys anchored by a mooring that had huge springs (coil) attached, which pumped a small turbine as the buoy bobbled up and down in the swell.
It was also connected up to pump salt water into holding dams on land, with a desalinator in between, so it also powered and pumped fresh water - very valuable for the west coast that usually suffers lack of rain during the hot, dry summer months.
The last I heard, the inventor ran out of funds to continue the experiment.


I digress, but why did you ever give up that lifestyle :wink: sounds like bliss …

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It was an unbelievably great lifestyle, but itinerant work just wasn’t enough to sustain it after 7 years unfortunately.
The stories I could tell and the amazing wildlife and anchorages we found - maybe I’ll do another stint when I retire…

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For consumers has Australia missed the boat, um? Or sailing on the tide?

This project appears a long way ahead of the reported trial in Gladstone Harbour with connected generation of 6MW for the Pentland Firth.

The Scotland project has a supporting ENvironmental Assessment and monitoring program. At over 200 pages the Oct 2016 document is not trivial but is broad and inclussive.


The answer may be here…

It appears that the project is a collaboration between MAKO Tidal Turbines and the Gladstone Port Corporation. The GPC is a government owned corporation and it may be taxpayers money (or reduced dividends from GPC profits) funding the trial. Unfortunately governments trial many things, not necessarily for the right reasons.

I also recall reading something that the far NW of Western Australia is also a location with tidal energy promise. Like Scotland, they have large tides which have very large kinetic energies from the mass of moving water. Gladstone tides are minor in comparison, but there are currents which flow through the Gatcombe and Golding Cutting channels.

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Not only governments. If we don’t try, then how will we know whether we can get it to work?