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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

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Personal tidal power

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008


I own a lot on tidal water in southeast Virginia… there is approx 2-4 foot of tidal shift per cycle. I know very little about home energy production or the technology that drives it, but I’m wondering if there is any available technology that would allow me to take advantage of the natural tidal shift at my property in order to generate sufficient energy to supplement my residential energy needs or perhaps even go off grid?

Ryan Ryckman

There are several large tidal power systems in other countries where the tide is very dramatic that are providing a large amount of electrical power. Although there are attempts to make smaller scale systems, most are very large and have massive underwater structures or ballast.

Several years ago I worked with a client who was building in a remote area that had no ground-water so no well. However, there was strong year-round stream on his property so we designed a pump system that had the pump down inside a 3 foot diameter concrete culvert that was 10 feet deep and located a few feet from the stream bed. Since the stream bed was large rocks and gravel, the creek water would easily fill the culvert and the pump would pump this water up to a holding tank in his basement. A second pump then pumped the tank water through several different filters and an ultra-violet light to kill any remaining bacteria.

Anyway, 2 years after this was installed and working, a flash flood came down the small creek and took out everything. All that we could find was the end of the pipe and the electrical wires from the house. It was like all this heavy structure was never there. The point being, you may be able to build some type of small system to generate a small amount of power during those hours when the tidal flow is peaking, but there will be a real risk that all this would be lost during the next storm. In addition, I would not expect much power from this unless the tidal flow was greater.

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago



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