Tidal power stations take advantage of the tidal rise and fall to generate electricity. In the simplest type of tidal development, a barrage is built across the estuary of a river. When the tide rises, water flows from the sea into the estuary, passing through sluice gates in the barrage. At high tide the sluice gates are closed and when the tide ebbs, the water behind the barrage is allowed to flow back to the sea through hydraulic turbines, generating power in the process.
Exploitation of tidal motion has a long history but its use for power generation is extremely limited with only a handful of operating plants in existence in the world. Tidal electricity generation is only possible in locations where the tidal span (the distance between high and low tide) is significant. Globally, a number of favourable sites have been identified but the costs involved in building a barrage make tidal power uneconomical to develop today.
Another means of extracting energy from tidal motion is to use an underwater windmill. This technology is considered separately in Chapter 14 which is devoted to ocean power.
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