The raw tidal resource

The tides around Britain are genuine tidal waves. (Tsunamis, which are called "tidal waves," have nothing to do with tides: they are caused by underwater landslides and earthquakes.) The location of the high tide (the crest of the tidal wave) moves much faster than the tidal flow - 100 miles per hour, say, while the water itself moves at just 1 mile per hour.

The energy we can extract from tides, using tidal pools or tide farms, can never be more than the energy of these tidal waves from the Atlantic. We can estimate the total power of these great Atlantic tidal waves in the same way that we estimate the power of ordinary wind-generated waves. The next section describes a standard model for the power arriving in v

travelling waves in water of depth d that is shallow compared to the wavelength of the waves (figure G.2). The power per unit length of wavecrest of shallow-water tidal waves is pg3/2Vdh2/2.

Table G.3 shows the power per unit length of wave crest for some plausible figures. If d = 100 m, and h = 1 or 2 m, the power per unit length of wave crest is 150kW/m or 600kW/m respectively. These figures are impressive compared with the raw power per unit length of ordinary Atlantic deep-water waves, 40kW/m (Chapter F). Atlantic waves and the Atlantic tide have similar vertical amplitudes (about 1 m), but the raw power in tides is roughly 10 times bigger than that of ordinary wind-driven waves.

Taylor (1920) worked out a more detailed model of tidal power that includes important details such as the Coriolis effect (the effect produced by the earth's daily rotation), the existence of tidal waves travelling in the opposite direction, and the direct effect of the moon on the energy flow in the Irish Sea. Since then, experimental measurements and computer models have verified and extended Taylor's analysis. Flather (1976) built a detailed numerical model of the lunar tide, chopping the continental shelf around the British Isles into roughly 1000 square cells. Flather estimated that the total average power entering this region is 215 GW. According to his model, 180 GW enters the gap between France and Ireland. From Northern Ireland round to Shetland, the incoming power is 49 GW. Between Shetland and Norway there is a net loss of 5GW. As shown in figure G.4, Cartwright et al. (1980) found experimentally that the average power transmission was 60 GW between Malin Head (Ireland) and Flora (Norway) and 190 GW between Valentia (Ireland) and the Brittany coast near Ouessant. The power entering the Irish Sea was found to be 45 GW, and entering the North Sea via the Dover Straits, 16.7GW.

The power of tidal waves

This section, which can safely be skipped, provides more details behind the formula for tidal power used in the previous section. I'm going to

Figure G.2. A shallow-water wave. Just like a deep-water wave, the wave has energy in two forms: potential energy associated with raising water out of the light-shaded troughs into the heavy-shaded crests; and kinetic energy of all the water moving around as indicated by the small arrows. The speed of the wave, travelling from left to right, is indicated by the much bigger arrow at the top. For tidal waves, a typical depth might be 100 m, the crest velocity 30 m/s, the vertical amplitude at the surface 1 or 2 m, and the water velocity amplitude 0.3 or 0.6m/s.



















Table G.3. Power fluxes (power per unit length of wave crest) for depth d = 100 m.

Table G.3. Power fluxes (power per unit length of wave crest) for depth d = 100 m.

go into this model of tidal power in some detail because most of the official estimates of the UK tidal resource have been based on a model that I believe is incorrect.

Figure G.2 shows a model for a tidal wave travelling across relatively shallow water. This model is intended as a cartoon, for example, of tidal crests moving up the English channel or down the North Sea. It's important to distinguish the speed U at which the water itself moves (which might be about 1 mile per hour) from the speed v at which the high tide moves, which is typically 100 or 200 miles per hour.

The water has depth d. Crests and troughs of water are injected from the left hand side by the 12-hourly ocean tides. The crests and troughs move with velocity

We assume that the wavelength is much bigger than the depth, and we neglect details such as Coriolis forces and density variations in the water. Call the vertical amplitude of the tide h. For the standard assumption of nearly-vorticity-free flow, the horizontal velocity of the water is near-constant with depth. The horizontal velocity U is proportional to the surface displacement and can be found by conservation of mass:

If the depth decreases, the wave velocity v reduces (equation (G.2)). For the present discussion we'll assume the depth is constant. Energy flows from left to right at some rate. How should this total tidal power be estimated? And what's the maximum power that could be extracted?

One suggestion is to choose a cross-section and estimate the average flux of kinetic energy across that plane, then assert that this quantity represents the power that could be extracted. This kinetic-energy-flux method was used by consultants Black and Veatch to estimate the UK resource. In our cartoon model, we can compute the total power by other means. We'll see that the kinetic-energy-flux answer is too small by a significant factor.

The peak kinetic-energy flux at any section is

where A is the cross-sectional area. (This is the formula for kinetic energy flux, which we encountered in Chapter B.)

The true total incident power is not equal to this kinetic-energy flux. The true total incident power in a shallow-water wave is a standard textbook calculation; one way to get it is to find the total energy present in one wavelength and divide by the period. The total energy per wavelength is the sum of the potential energy and the kinetic energy. The kinetic energy happens to be identical to the potential energy. (This is a standard feature of almost all things that wobble, be they masses on springs or children

Figure G.4. Average tidal powers measured by Cartwright et al. (1980).

on swings.) So to compute the total energy all we need to do is compute one of the two - the potential energy per wavelength, or the kinetic energy per wavelength - then double it. The potential energy of a wave (per wavelength and per unit width of wavefront) is found by integration to be

So, doubling and dividing by the period, the true power of this model shallow-water tidal wave is

where w is the width of the wavefront. Substituting v = \/gd, power = pgh2\fgd xzv/ 2 =

Let's compare this power with the kinetic-energy flux KBV. Strikingly, the two expressions scale differently with the amplitude h. Using the amplitude conversion relation (G.3), the crest velocity (G.2), and A = wd, we can re-express the kinetic-energy flux as

Kbv = ^pAU3 = ipwd(vh/df = p (g3'2/Vd) h3 x w/2. (G.8)

So the kinetic-energy-flux method suggests that the total power of a shallow-water wave scales as amplitude cubed (equation (G.8)); but the correct formula shows that the power scales as amplitude squared (equation (G.7)). The ratio is kbv _Pw(}?<>/Vd)h*_h (G9)

power pg^^lfis/dw d

Because h is usually much smaller than d (h is about 1 m or 2 m, while d is 100 m or 10 m), estimates of tidal power resources that are based on the kinetic-energy-flux method may be much too small, at least in cases where this shallow-water cartoon of tidal waves is appropriate.

Moreover, estimates based on the kinetic-energy-flux method incorrectly assert that the total available power at springs (the biggest tides) is eight times greater than at neaps (the smallest tides), assuming an amplitude ratio, springs to neaps, of two to one; but the correct answer is that the total available power of a travelling wave scales as its amplitude squared, so the springs-to-neaps ratio of total-incoming-power is four to one.

Effect of shelving of sea bed, and Coriolis force

If the depth d decreases gradually and the width remains constant such that there is minimal reflection or absorption of the incoming power, then speed (m/s)

springs springs neaps power (W/m2) 30 —^springs 25 20 15 10 5 0

10 11 time (days)

time (days)

the power of the wave will remain constant. This means \/dh2 is a constant, so we deduce that the height of the tide scales with depth as h ~ 1/d1/4.

This is a crude model. One neglected detail is the Coriolis effect. The Coriolis force causes tidal crests and troughs to tend to drive on the right -for example, going up the English Channel, the high tides are higher and the low tides are lower on the French side of the channel. By neglecting this effect I may have introduced some error into the estimates.

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