The Tidal Irrigation and Electrical System

renewable energy, carbon dioxide sink, biodiesel, and food from the ocean


Martin on Apr 12th 2008

The political framework for the construction of a Tidal Irrigation and Electrical System on the continental shelf is established in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and in the Convention on the Continental Shelf. Although a TIE System’s area is very large, it will be easy to navigate around and by being fixed and limited to the continental shelf the odds of ship collision are no higher than any other place on the coast.

However, there is a major political challenge that should be addressed: The vast majority of continental shelf controlled by the world’s current dominant powers is temperate, not tropical. So a TIE System built in these waters would lack the OTEC component or if it did have one it would operate at a greatly reduced efficiency. There are, of course, higher tides the further toward a pole you travel so the other outputs of the TIE System would increase, improving the case for construction at a higher latitude…but at certain point it will likely be uneconomic.

Globally, governments are beginning to recognize the tropical, developing world is the best place to grow biofuels. The temperate, developed nations simply do not get enough sunshine to grow the plants that have a high enough energy content to meet their demands. Of all the terrestrial northern plants proposed as biofuels, only switch grass and sugarbeet have a total positive energy balance, and that is very small. If all the land needed to sustainably maintain northern civilization was converted to biofuels there wouldn’t be enough food for everyone to eat. Of course, algae has a much greater potential to be used as a source for fuels than conventional plants and they can be grown in almost any climate. This does not change the fact that the tropical world is still the largest receiver of solar radiation and any biofuels grown there will grow faster and have a higher energy content.

Despite this, many northern nations are preferentially investing in technologies that can be implemented on their soil. For obvious national security reasons most governments wish to do this, but this merely delays action on climate change and impoverishes both the developed and developing world. The truth is, these technologies at most can meet the needs of transport and domestic use. A full third of the energy budget of a developed nation is industry and there are no realistic plans other than the Tidal Irrigation and Electrical System that can meet this demand.

It is important to note that as wealth increases around the world demand will only grow. Perhaps it can be mooted that global economic stability and equitable trading creates global political stability and a sustainable existence while ever-increasing prices does not. The developed world has many things but perhaps self sufficiency in renewable energy is a bridge too far.