India plans tidal power station

The Indian state of Gujarat is planning to host Asia’s first commercial-scale tidal power station. British marine energy developer Atlantis Resources Corp. and Gujarat Power Corp. Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding with the Gujarat government for the 50 megawatt tidal farm on India’s west coast, India’s Business Standard newspaper reports. Construction is to begin in early 2012.

The facility could later be expanded to deliver more than 200 megawatts. La Rance in France is currently the biggest operating tidal station in the world, generating 240 megawatts. “Gujarat has (a) significant resource in the waters of its coast, so tidal energy represents a huge opportunity for us,” said DJ Pandian, chairman and managing director of Gujarat Power, BBC reports. “This project will be India’s and indeed Asia’s first at commercial scale and will deliver important economic and environmental benefits for the region, as well as paving the way for similar developments within Gujarat.” But to claim the distinction of being the first tidal station, the Gujarat project would have to forge ahead of developments now under construction in South Korea.

Atlantis Chief Executive Officer Tim Cornelius said tidal power represents an uncharted power source with huge potential. Worldwide installations now total about 2 gigawatts. “Tidal power today is what wind energy was 10 years back,” he said, The Standard reports. Tidal current power uses turbines, which are submerged, to harness energy contained in the flow of ocean tides. The power output, Cornelius said, is highly predictable. “Tidal power is like putting a wind turbine subsea and the turbine rotors rotate slowly, causing very little environmental impact to marine flora and fauna,” he said.

Tidal power sources could meet 15 percent of the world’s power demands and about 5 percent of India’s needs, current estimates indicate. Cornelius said those figures could increase significantly as more coastline studies are concluded. Last October, Atlantis was selected as part of a consortium to develop a tidal farm in northern Scotland, expected to be the world’s largest at 378 megawatts. India, Asia’s third largest energy consumer and the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, relies on coal for more than half of its power capacity. The International Energy Agency says nearly 404 million Indians don’t have access to electricity.