History of Tidal Power
The use of tidal power is not new. Tidal mills were used to provide the power for milling corn for centuries. Proposals to harness the very large tides in the Severn Estuary were first made in the 19th century and again in the 20th century. The first comprehensive studies were carried out for The Severn Barrage Committee (the Bondi committee) and were published as Energy Paper 46 in 1981. This was followed by the Severn Tidal Power Group’s detailed studies for a Cardiff to Weston barrage, published as Energy Paper 57 in 1989, which remain the most detailed engineering study to date. The most recent studies for the Severn were carried out in 2007-09 for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and were published in 2010. These studies considered three options for a barrage and two lagoon options and included wide ranging environmental studies and assessments. Studies for barrages in other UK locations carried out in the 1980’s and 1990’s included the Mersey barrage and several small schemes on the West coast.
The first major scheme to be constructed was the La Rance Tidal Power Barrage which was completed in 1967 and has operated ever since (see picture below) It has a capacity of 240MW and has now operated successfully for over 50 years, with some upgrading of electrical systems carried out in the 1990’s. Another large scheme was constructed more recently, the Siwha tidal power plant in South Korea which has a capacity of 254MW. In addition, there are some small schemes operating in Canada, Russia and China.