Anyone who has checked the tide times and headed to the coast over the recent period of windy weather should be in no doubt about the power of the sea. Yet, few people realise just how often humans are now harnessing this power in new ways to benefit themselves – and the planet.
There are still people who think that using tides to create electricity, for example, is an outlandish idea – probably a similar group to those who thought the same of going to the moon 50 years ago.
The quest to use the power of the sea is continuing apace, however, and France’s first ever subsea tidal plant should start operations at the end of this year.
Once complete, the plant should produce one megawatt of power to be fed into the local grid. Each tide that moves in or out will spin two giant turbines positioned 35 metres below sea level, which each have a diameter of 16 metres.
The set-up looks like a yellow submarine and, in basic terms, it works like a wind turbine that uses water instead of air to rotate the blades.
The finished plant will be a masterpiece of modern engineering and logistical planning. The giant yellow subsea vessel which is being used was created at the Power & Water’s factory in Belfort – France’s most distant town from the coast.
To solve the transportation dilemma involved with getting the giant structure to the coast from such a far-away location, a specially customised flatbed truck had to be created to travel 650 miles to the sea at Brest.
This subsea vessel, now known as the Yellow Submarine, measures nine metres by five metres and is ‘the brain’ behind the whole operation, assessing the tide times and specific water flow to make the turbines move in the most effective way. Sophisticated technology means that each turbine can be independently controlled.