At a time when there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions across the world, the Indian state of Gujarat is a glaring example commitment towards harnessing renewables as new sources of power. Gujarat is on way to becoming India’s renewable energy hub, and the state government is aiming to develop tidal power, an emerging sector of renewable energy, from its long coastal region. After making pioneering efforts in solar power and wind power generation, the state government is now likely to come up with a tidal energy generation policy soon, given the huge potential of the state that has the longest coastline in the country.
According to sources in the state energy and petrochemicals department, the state government has decided to explore the state’s tidal power generation potential along with solar energy and wind power in the coming years. Already committed to significant investments in solar and wind energy, and setting its priorities loud and clear, the state is all set to bring India on the list of global frontrunners generating power from tidal waves. Gujarat’s long coastline with tremendous tidal waves in the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Khambhat make it a hot destination for tidal power generation.
What is tidal power?
Tidal power, also called tidal energy, is a form of power generated in oceans and seas by converting the energy of tides into electricity. Although not yet widely used, tidal power has potential for future electricity generation with tides being more predictable than wind energy and solar power. Tidal current power uses turbines to harness the energy contained in the flow of ocean tides. It is unique as the power output, like tidal movements, is highly predictable and sustainable with zero visual impact and the turbines are completely submerged. 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. Tidal power, a part of wind energy, has yet to become a popular source of energy, due to the high costs involved in setting up plants, and the limited availability of sites with high tidal ranges. Even with its potential for providing predictable and sustainable electricity generation with no visual impact, tidal power still accounts for only a fraction of a per cent of the world’s total electricity generation. According to estimates, world’s 15 per cent of the power needs could be met through tidal energy sources. That is slowly changing though, with numerous tidal power plants being constructed or planned for coastlines around the world. Worldwide, the generation of tidal power is very miniscule when pitted against other renewable sources of energy, but experts feel there could definitely be a change with the rising focus on clean energy sources. The biggest tidal power station in the world is located at La Rance, Brittany, France, where 240 MW is generated, sufficient to meet 90 per cent of Brittany’s electricity demands.
The state government of Gujarat has begun preparing a tidal power generation policy on the lines of its solar and wind power generation policies. The state government has decided to allocate Rs 25 crore in special grant in the upcoming budget for conducting special surveys and studies to identify potential sites where tidal power generation plants can be set up. Initially, Gujarat Energy Development Agency (GEDA) and the state-run Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd (GPCL) will conduct this exercise. On the basis of their report, the state government will form a policy to streamline the development of the tidal power sector in the state. Atlantis Resources Corporation, UK-based marine energy developer group, had earlier conducted a study to ascertain the feasibility of the project which revealed that the country had excellent potential to achieve good levels of productivity in terms of tidal power.
During the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January 2011, the state government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Atlantis Resources Corporation for setting up a tidal power project in the Gulf of Kutch. This tidal project, touted as Asia’s first utility-scale tidal power plant meant for commercial purposes, is being built as a joint venture between GPCL and the Atlantis, which developed the world’s largest tidal turbine in Scotland. The power plant is slated to be built at a cost of around Rs 750 crore with a capacity of generating 250 MW of tidal power. Initially, a pilot project of generating 50 MW of power would be commissioned, and then will be escalated to 250 MW.
Rajkumar Raisinghani, an official at GPCL, said that the formalities of procuring clearance from various agencies are over and the installation of the project may begin anytime in 2012. He said that Atlantis has finished the construction of turbine in Scotland which is in the testing phase. The turbine with a rotor blade of around 18-metre would weigh anywhere from 15-18 tonnes, and proper testing needs to be done before bringing to the site for installation. He added that they were also looking for some financial assistance from government and hoped that the proposed tidal energy policy would somehow create path for financial support from the government part to fast-track the growth of tidal energy sector in Gujarat and India. He said that the tidal power plant in the Gulf of Kutch is likely to start a new chapter in India’s renewable energy sector.
Potential in Gujarat
The state of Gujarat is blessed with a long coast line of 1,600 km, where the wind speeds have phenomenal potential to generate power which is yet to be tapped. According to a recent study performed by the Indian government, the Gulf of Kutch has 1,200 MW of tidal energy potential. Apart from Gulf of Kutch, the Gulf of Khambhat is also blessed with immense tidal waves capable of generating power. The prospect of setting up tidal power plants in Gujarat got bolstered after the feasibility survey performed by Atlantis, that showed the tides in the Arabian Sea were strong enough to generate 300 MW of tidal power.
This feasibility study was a result of MoU signed in 2009 between Atlantis Resources Corporation and the State of Gujarat to assess state’s tidal power resources with the intention of developing tidal power projects of 100 MW or more capacity. Speaking about the prospects of tidal energy in Gujarat, Atlantis’ CEO, Tim Cornelius, had remarked post survey, "The Gulfs of Kutch and Khambhat are renowned for their extreme daily tidal exchanges. In harnessing this renewable energy quickly and sustainably, Gujarat can become a world-leader in tidal energy."
When asked about the future of tidal energy market in India and Gujarat in particular, Rajkumar Raisinghani said, "As per the survey conducted by Government of India and the latest one by Atlantis, there is immense potential in Gujarat and other parts of the country. Since this is a nascent industry, and there is no other equipment manufacturer except Atlantis, a careful planning and policy may lead to an environment wherein around 40 per cent of equipment could be manufactured in India itself bringing down the cost of the overall project."
The Indian government has categorised Gujarat as the best state for solar, wind and renewable power generation and is fast turning into the hotspot for India’s renewable energy sector. The state is blessed with significant resources of almost all kinds of renewable energy forms, and it plans to establish tidal, wind and solar power plants to produce more than 7,000 MW of power and significantly raise the share of renewable energy sources.
The proposed tidal power policy and the setting up of India’s first tidal power plant in the Gulf of Kutch is likely to push Gujarat at the forefront of the fight against climate change through the adoption of cutting-edge renewable generation technologies. It has the potential to create a new local industry based around tidal power in the state and could establish Gujarat as a global leader in marine power renewable energy creating hundreds of local jobs.