Modes of operation

There are several modes of operation for a tidal power plant. The simplest involves filling the tidal basin behind the plant's barrage as the tide rises, then shutting the sluice gates to prevent the water escaping. The tide is then allowed to ebb until sufficient head has developed for power generation to begin. At this point water is allowed to flow through the turbines and back to the sea.

In theory it is possible to generate power both on the ebb and the flow of the tide across a tidal barrage. La Rance, in France, was designed to operate in this way. However this method of operation has not proved the most efficient and the French plant now only operates on the ebb tide.

A more profitable strategy is to generate only when the tide is ebbing, but to use the turbines to pump water from the seaward to the landward side of the barrage close to the high tide point during the flow tide. While this involves some energy expenditure, the increased head of water behind the barrage can allow up to 10% more power to be generated than is possible without pumping. This depends, however, on the site conditions and may not always prove profitable.

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