11 Environmental Impacts of Tidal Energy

Tidal energy, or the power produced by the surge of ocean waters during the rise and fall of tides, is one type of renewable energy. In this article, we take a look at some of the environmental impacts of tidal energy.

The natural rise and fall of ocean tides and currents provides the energy source for tidal energy, which is renewable. Paddles and turbines are a couple of these technological innovations.

In the 20th century, engineers created methods for harnessing tidal movement—the area that separates high tide from low tide—to produce energy in places where there is a substantial tidal range. Tidal energy is converted into electricity using specialized generators in all techniques.

The creation of tidal energy is still very new. Thus far, not much energy has been generated. Worldwide, the number of operational commercial-scale tidal power facilities is extremely small. The first one was in France, in La Rance. The Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station in South Korea is the biggest facility.

There aren’t any tidal plants in the US, and there aren’t many places where it could be produced affordably. Russia, China, France, England, and Canada have far more potential uses for this kind of energy.

Environmental Impacts of Tidal Energy

Although this much depends on the location of the power station, tidal energy has both positive and negative environmental effects. Overall, the effect on the ecosystem is still debatable.

The environment could be endangered by the development of tidal power plants. The power plant’s underwater structures have the potential to negatively impact marine life habitats by altering the ambient flow field and water quality. Sea life is likely to be harmed by rotating turbine blades.

The noise produced by the underwater turbines also seriously impairs animals’ ability to communicate and navigate. The municipal government in Canada closed the Annapolis Royal Generating Station last year because of the significant risk to fish.

However, tidal power plants might be good for the environment. After the construction of power plants, there is a gradient alteration that helps aquatic ecology; an increase in oxygen concentration is frequently recorded, indicating an improvement in water quality.

  • Carbon Footprint of Manufacturing and Installation
  • Greenhouse Gases
  • Noise and Vibrations
  • Disruption of the Marine Ecosystem
  • Possibility of Destroying Habitats
  • Risk of Collision for Marine Life
  • Modification of Sediment Movement
  • Variations in the Magnetic Field
  • Changes in Water Quality
  • Tidal Range Alteration
  • Interference with Navigation

1. Carbon Footprint of Manufacturing and Installation

Although tidal energy is regarded as a clean and sustainable energy source in and of itself, the carbon footprint is increased during the production, installation, and upkeep of tidal energy infrastructure. To evaluate the net environmental benefits in comparison to alternative energy sources, a life cycle analysis is required.

Carbon emissions are a result of the production, shipping, and installation of tidal energy infrastructure components. Even though tidal energy is regarded as a renewable resource, the environmental impact assessment as a whole needs to take these early carbon emissions into account.

2. Greenhouse Gases

Naturally, the fact that renewable energy is better for the environment is its greatest benefit. The ability of tidal stream power generation to be a 100% renewable, 100% dependable, and 100% predictable energy source is one of the main factors driving the effort to mitigate climate change by lowering CO2 emissions.

Compared to the same power generated by diesel, every kWh of “tidal” power generates around 1,000g of CO2. Remote island populations frequently utilize diesel power generation, which has an effective carbon intensity of 1,000 g/kWh when combined with the applicable plant efficiency of approximately 25%. Diesel power generation has a carbon intensity of 250 g/kWh.

In addition to significantly lowering CO2 emissions, tidal energy also helps to lower emissions of all other greenhouse gases, including nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). When fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas are burned to create energy, these gases are emitted.

Tidal energy produces no air pollutants, such as soot and fine particles, which are linked to lung, heart, and brain damage in addition to greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Noise and Vibrations

The limited studies that have been conducted to date to establish how a tidal power system will affect the environment have found that the effects vary widely depending on the local geography and that each location is unique.

The sounds made by the spinning turbines may or may not affect porpoises’ behavior, depending on their spectrum, source level, and local propagation conditions.

Porpoises, however, are only predicted to breach the barrier during and around slack tides, when the turbines are still and hence silent. The sound produced by the rotating turbines will either produce an additional barrier effect or help the porpoises locate the turbines to avoid colliding with them if they are audible to them.

4. Disruption of the Marine Ecosystem

The installation and use of tidal energy devices may affect marine ecosystems. Infrastructure related to turbines has the potential to change ecosystems, which could have an impact on marine animals’ distribution and behaviour.

By modifying sediment transport and water flow patterns, tidal energy installations have the potential to modify coastal ecosystems. Marine species distribution and behavior may be impacted by this disturbance, especially those that depend on certain tidal conditions for feeding or breeding.

5. Possibility of Destroying Habitats

Habitat degradation may occur during the installation and maintenance of tidal energy devices, especially in the construction stages. The installation of structures on the seabed, such as turbines and support foundations, may be necessary for tidal energy projects.

The biodiversity and ecological balance of the impacted areas may be negatively impacted by this physical transformation of the seabed, which may also disrupt the flora and animals that live in these places and harm benthic ecosystems.

6. Risk of Collision for Marine Life

Large marine animals like whales and dolphins are especially vulnerable to collisions with tidal turbines. To reduce these hazards, it’s critical to carry out in-depth environmental impact assessments and put protective measures in place, like underwater monitoring systems and modified turbine designs.

7. Modification of Sediment Movement

Tidal energy projects have the potential to alter the patterns of sediment transport, which could affect the seafloor and nearby coastal areas. This modification may have an impact on the equilibrium between erosion and sedimentation, which could have an impact on the stability of ecosystems.

This may have an impact on the patterns of sedimentation in estuaries and coastal regions, which could have an impact on the stability of shorelines and the well-being of nearby ecosystems.

8. Variations in the Magnetic Field

Underwater cables and tidal turbines produce electromagnetic fields that may disrupt marine species’ navigational systems and behavior, including fish that migrate.

9. Changes in Water Quality

The establishment and functioning of tidal energy infrastructure has the potential to introduce contaminants or modify the quality of the surrounding water, thus affecting the well-being of marine ecosystems.

10. Tidal Range Alteration

The extraction of tidal energy can impact tidal ranges in particular areas, hence influencing the water flow and sediment transport in nature. The estuarine ecosystems and coastal landscapes may be impacted by this change.

11. Interference with Navigation

To protect shipping lanes and other maritime operations, tidal energy facilities must be carefully planned for and coordinated with other maritime installations to avoid interfering with navigation routes and maritime activities.


In conclusion, careful planning, in-depth environmental impact assessments, and the implementation of mitigating measures are necessary to minimize the detrimental effects of tidal energy on marine ecosystems and habitats, although it has the potential to be a clean and sustainable energy source.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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