Tidal energy plans are underway in Europe

Tidal power packs a more powerful and predictable punch than wind power, but it’s development is still in its toddler, if not infant, stages. But a major tidal energy project is in the works off the coast of Northern Ireland and Scotland. ScottishPower plans to test sea turbines off the Antrim Coast, Pentland Firth and the Sound of Islay, according to BBC News. The 60 turbines could generate power for up to 40,000 homes. The company hasn’t applied for planning permission yet, but is expected to do so next year. The 65-foot blades would turn at least about 33 feet below the surface to avoid shipping interference, but the zones would be banned to trawlers.

ScottishPower says marine life won’t be threatened, though some researchers and environmental groups say the environmental effects of tidal energy are largely unknown. Questions include what effects tidal energy could have on sedimentation, fish, marine mammals, migrating whales, nutrient pumps in the ocean ecosystem; and what impact the turbines’ movement, noise or vibration might have on sea life.

The U.S. Department of Energy says, “Tidal power plants that dam estuaries can impede sea life migration, and silt build-ups behind such facilities can impact local ecosystems. Tidal fences may also disturb sea life migration. Newly developed tidal turbines may prove ultimately to be the least environmentally damaging of the tidal power technologies because they don’t block migratory paths.”