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Tidal Power: The Underdog of the Renewable Industry

Ethan Leem

    According to climate scientists, countries must achieve net zero by 2050 in order to prevent the worst effects of climate change. In other words, the world must cut carbon emissions within 30 years to prevent irreversible environmental damage. The matter seems pressing as over 130 countries have adopted net zero initiatives. However, not pressing enough. Only a fourth of the world’s eighth highest carbon-emitting countries have implemented carbon neutrality pledges into law, and most are either in policy, pledge, or in the discussion, whilst their target dates lie 20 to 50 years away. However, the uprising of an underdog may be able to help with this net zero predicament. 

  Often outshined by hydropower, tidal energy is another type of renewable energy generated through water. While hydropower focuses on spinning turbines through the flow of water, tidal energy uses the directions of current provided by tides to bridge across the gap towards complete net-zero emissions. Even though there are only a handful of countries utilizing tidal energy, different methods of harnessing tidal currents have been developed according to the varying aquatic environments these tidal power methods are placed in. For instance, South Korea’s Lake Sihwa’s Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station is based on a large seawall that is present across the lake. The Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station can afford such a large module to be built upon thanks to Sihwa Lake’s extensiveness of 12.7 kilometers. Meanwhile, Scotland’s European Marine Energy Centre’s (EMEC) O2 has no seawall. Instead, EMEC's O2 harvests energy through propellers. The O2 is able to employ rotors due to Scotland’s northern coast’s roaring tides. Essentially, tidal energy as a technology is quite young, energy as a technology is equite young, which provides it a great deal of diversity, inducing  potential. 

 Seeing that net zero is an important goal to achieve, what can net zero accomplish for society? Without net zero substantially obtained, the effects of climate change will continue to run rampant and cause further damage. For instance, studies reveal the desertification of lands or decreased soil fertility is likely to encourage long-term migration. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees affirmed that mass displacement occurs as a result of climate change, as 90% of refugees are known to hail from areas vulnerable to climate variability. Aside from economic and social consequences, climate change has been declared the “single greatest threat to the human rights and [the] security of present and future generations.” Millions that haven’t been displaced are left with rising sea levels and homeland instability. Pacific island nations have reported their homes could be uninhabitable by 2030. The world must successfully enter a state of net zero emission in order to prevent the worst of climate change.  

   According to PNNL, tidal power is more predictable than other common forms of renewable energy, like those obtained from the sun or wind. This is a key asset in connecting tidal power to achieving a global status of net zero, as tidal power’s general reliability and consistency will serve as an invaluable backbone in said process. Much of the renewable energy sources  society has come to idolize has an infamous tendency to fail in terms of reliability when compared to fossil fuels—the very energy source it was intended to replace—which may be an important reason to consider when inquiring why renewable energy remains less popular. With tidal power working towards net zero, the debacle of consistency that plagued so many ingenious renewable energy sources is successfully nullified, and the journey towards net zero can continue smoothly. 

   Tidal energy is unlike any other renewable energy sources. It carries the remarkable ability to provide a consistent flow of energy because it is based on a resource that remains constant: tides. The ability for tidal power to provide a consistent flow of energy means tidal power as an energy source has the ability to pioneer the uncharted industry of applying net zero to society. As a budding technology, tidal power continues to grow in ingenuity and potential. With that being said, tidal energy holds enormous potential as the future of renewable energy as well as being the face of global net zero. 

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