From: Geelong Advertiser
Published September 17, 2008 09:11 AM

Tidal power makes a splash

THE search for sustainable energy has never been stronger as climate change concerns drive government, scientists, business and environmentalists around the world in a headlong charge for affordable new technologies.

Sources ranging from electricity, wind, biofuel and  through solar, geothermal and nuclear to hybrids, fuel cells and methane retrieval _ and many, many more energy possibilities _ are being pursued frantically and expensively. One of the most readily apparent sources _ tidal power _ has been slow to capture the imagination although a Singapore company is keenly eyeing The Rip off Queenscliff for  water turbines that might power up to 1000 houses.

Atlantis Power Resources has been testing a turbine in Corio Bay and if its plans are approved would utilise two turbines in The Rip, exploiting the great mass of water that rushes through the Port Phillip Heads twice a day. It claims its systems would be silent, out of sight and environmentally clean.

At first blush, the tidal turbines sound a good idea. Certainly, they're not a new idea; late Geelong mayor Howard Glover was calling for some similar arrangement two decades ago. And hardly surprising, really. The power surging through The Rip is phenomenal. No less than 4 per cent of Port Phillip Bay's 25 cubic kilometres volume _ a cubic kilometre of water _ is exchanged on every tide.

Harnessing this power properly would be difficult because  the narrow entrance to the bay makes  tidal movements unusual. But the potential is abundantly clear _ and more reliable than wind and sun, cleaner than coal, lacking radioactive half-life problems, easier to extract than fossil fuels. And Atlantis appears to be relatively modest in its ambition, suggesting it could power 1000 houses through tidal power fed directly into the grid.

But clean and green as Atlantis might argue its proposal is, it may well face a barrage of problems from environmentalists who have shown through opposition to recent dredging they are anything but happy about anyone interfering with the bay.

Experience overseas _ notably in the United Kingdom where a Pound15 billion tidal barrage on the Severn has infuriated environmentalists _ shows tidal power might not be immune from such anger. Protesters there argue the 16 km barrage will savage a unique environment of breeding and feeding sites for migratory birds.

The Atlantis turbine plans are ambitious and, at this stage, unclear in scope or nature. The kind of sustainable energy they might generate is interesting indeed, and at this stage of a minor scale, but the detail has yet to be seen and comment from the relevant authorities yet to be heard. What these show augur for interesting times ahead.

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