China and Netherlands to Research Novel Form of Large-scale Tidal Power
Circle of Blue
October 9, 2012
By Brett Walton
On September 27, Chinese and Dutch officials were in Beijing signing an
agreement to research and develop a novel renewable energy concept that
uses the sea. Called "dynamic tidal power," both nations have high hopes
for the new energy source that would be implemented along the Chinese coast.
Dynamic tidal power (DTP) was invented and patented in 1997 by two Dutch
coastal engineers. It uses a T-shaped jetty that reaches as far as 60
kilometers (37 miles) into the ocean to catch tides that are running
parallel to the shore. This creates areas where there is a height
difference in the water levels, with low water on one side and high
water on the other. By taking advantage of the potential energy created
by this height difference - much like the difference between the top and
the bottom of a waterfall - the jetty, which is lined with turbines,
functions similar to a dam: water flows from one side to the other and
cranks the turbines, which converts the potential energy (of the height
difference) to kinetic energy (from the movement of the turbines), which
can be used to generate electricity. (See diagram image below.)
If testing proves successful, scaling-up the Chinese-Dutch model would
be massive. The turbine-filled jetty would stick out at least 30
kilometers (18 miles) into the ocean and have a power-generating
capacity of roughly 15,000 megawatts, placing it second among all
hydroelectric facilities in the world.
If such a breakthrough were to occur - and it is too soon to say if it
will - it would help China to meet its goal of cutting carbon emissions
while increasing its energy production. China, the world's
second-largest economy, wants to cut carbon dioxide emissions 17 percent
by 2015, according to its 12th Five-Year Plan, which was released in
"A lot of work must be done to determine if dynamic tidal power is a
feasible option for China," said Peng Cheng, the deputy director-general
of the hydropower and water resources planning agency within China's
Ministry of Water Resources. "We hope that a suitable demonstration
project can be designed in the coming year or two. If that demonstration
proves successful, we will have a solid basis from which to investigate
the application of full-scale dynamic tidal power."
The project, which buttresses China's status as a global leader in
renewable energy research, is a joint venture between POWER, a
government-funded consortium of Dutch companies, and a group of Chinese
companies and universities organized by the National Energy Administration.
The three-year agreement has the following goals:
- Determine most suitable sites for dynamic tidal power (DTP)
implementation in China, Korea, and the United Kingdom.
- Complete detailed feasibility studies for two DTP pilot power plants
- Complete pre-feasibility study for one full-scale DTP power plant in
- Distribute technical information worldwide about DTP.
There are challenges in developing the concept, however, according to
Brian Polagye, the co-director of the Northwest National Marine
Renewable Energy Center and a mechanical engineer at the University of
Washington. For instance, if the DTP system is built at all, it must be
built large enough to make it economically feasible and strong enough to
"There's no small-scale deployment," Polagye told Circle of Blue.
"Building any sort of structure that far off the coast comes with
structural challenges. We can do it - just look at oil drilling
platforms - but it is expensive. So it comes down to the cost of the
Polagye did not know of any commercial dynamic tidal projects operating
anywhere in the world.
Rather, most tidal power projects completed so far have instead used the
kinetic energy of rising tides to turn an array of turbines strung
across a narrow channel. One of the largest such projects - La Rance in
Brittany, France - has an installed capacity of 240 megawatts.
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