Indian Government to Offer Tidal Energy Support Soon
The Indian government has recently announced it will soon offer tidal energy support in the country. However, this alternative energy presents some downsides that need to be addressed first. Power Minister Piyush Goyal informed the public during Question Hour that this new technology is still in its first stages, which means the costs are still exorbitant.
Tidal energy is something several countries are looking into developing. But, at present, in the pre-research and development stage, the new source of energy can cost anywhere between Rs 17 to 36 per unit (Indian rupees). Due to the high costs, Piyush Goyal said the government is trying to avoid putting such a strain on the people to develop this costly source of power.
What Is Tidal Energy?
The tides are caused by a combination between the moon’s gravitational pull and the rotation of the earth. While the tides differ across the globe, some places experience water levels variations up to 40 feet near the shore. Harnessing the water’s rhythmic movement is not a new endeavor. European dwellers used it to operate grain mills over 1,000 years ago. Today, we are trying to use the tides to generate electricity. In order to produce tidal energy in an economical way, the tidal range has to be of at least 10 feet.
Barrages are one of the ways we can harness tidal energy. This type of system uses a structure similar to a dam. Installed across the inside of an ocean lagoon or bay, the barrage taps into the energy source of the tidal basin. The barrage’s gates control the flow rates and the water levels, allowing the tidal basin to receive water on the incoming high tides and to drain through an electricity turbine system on the outgoing tide.
This technology comes with several potential disadvantages. Solutions are required before the industry can receive tidal energy support from the government. The effect of a tidal station on the surrounding habitats is one of the downsides. Plants and animals sharing the estuaries of the tidal basin can suffer changes in natural cycles. Tidal power plants could also affect fish migration patterns and disturb ecosystems.
Meanwhile, tidal barrages can influence the tidal levels in the basin, as well as affect recreation and navigation. The problem of the inconsistent generation of electricity is another obstacle. The movement of the tides is not an exact science, so it’s risky to invest in something so volatile. Additionally, tidal power plants and stations have a very high installation cost.
India’s Untapped Potential
Thanks to its 7,500 kilometers long coastline, India is one of the few places on earth where the high tide is over five meters higher than the low tide. This makes the Asian country ideal for harnessing the huge tidal power potential. Unfortunately, no tidal energy-based power plants exist in India yet. While several programs have tried to receive approval and government support, things are only now starting to move along.
But India has been researching the potential of generating electricity via tidal systems since the 1980s. The Panchapada River in Odisha and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are just two of the projects that could be moving forward if the government follows through on its promise to offer tidal energy support. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, there is plenty of potential of tidal energy within the Indian territory. They estimate the country can generate around 7000 MW of power in the Gulf of Khambhat in Gujarat. Additionally, there is potential for 1200 MW in the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat, and 100 MW in the Gangetic delta in West Bengal.
The Durgaduani Creek is a 3.75 MW power plant which started operating in 1997. It’s also the one that drew national attention to the importance of tidal energy. In April 2013, the project announced it was shutting down due to project cost escalations. These funding problems occurred even though the Ministry of Non-Conventional and Renewable Energy had been covering around 90 percent of the project costs.
In similar energy news, there was an announcement in 2011 about the possibility of establishing a tidal power plant in the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat. Its initial capacity of 50 MW was supposed to expand to 200 MW over time. Meanwhile, news in 2016 shared some rumors of the Government partnering with an Israeli firm to build tidal power plants in Goa. Things are definitely starting to shift in India in regard to tidal energy.
Minister of Shipping Nitin Gadkari said, “Since last two years, I have been constantly pursuing whether we can generate power using tidal waves in the sea. Today, I came to know that we can start experimenting this by using Israeli technology which will help generate power using tidal waves.”
Indian Tidal Energy Policy
What’s surprising is that India – a country with such potential of tidal energy – still lacks a tidal energy policy. As developments occur, it’s critical to set strong policies for maximum clarity. The government will have to tariff the power produced through this particular type of energy source. If the Indian authorities want to generate interest among developers, the first step is establishing a strong policy.
India’s total potential concerning tidal power is huge; it could produce more than 8000 MW of electricity. An important mention is that the previous projects were shut down due to their high capital costs. And there are still several obstacles in the way of developing tidal energy systems. India needs to address factors like the environmental impact, on one hand. Meanwhile, there’s the transmission of the electricity from coastal regions (where it is generated) to the populated parts of the country (where it is needed).
The good news today is that the government is open to capitalize on tidal energy. According to the Power Minister Piyush Goyal, tidal systems require a five meter base tidal movement. This means Maharashtra and Gujarat are the only regions where power plants could potentially set up. The Minister has also spoken about the potential of roof-top solar energy. In a bid to promote it, the government pledged up to 30 percent subsidy to defeat the high initial cost.