Ocean tides are deemed to become a stable source of renewable energy for the future. Tidal energy has two components, the first is the potential energy due to sea level variations and the second comes from the kinetic energy of the tidal streams. This paper is concerned with the backward effect on the ocean currents by a tidal stream farm located in the open shallow sea. Recent studies in channels with 1-D models have indicated that the power potential is not given purely by the flux of kinetic energy, as has been commonly assumed. In this study, a 3-D ocean circulation model is used to estimate (i) maximum extractable energy at different levels of rated generation capacity of the farm, (ii) changes in the strength of currents due to energy extraction, and (iii) alterations in the pattern of residual currents and pathways of passive tracers. As water flow is influenced both by tidal and non-tidal currents, the model takes into account wind-driven and density-driven currents generated by meteorological forcing. Numerical modelling has been carried out for a hypothetical circular farm located in the Celtic Sea north of Cornwall, an area known for its high level of tidal energy. Modelling results clearly indicate that extracted power does not grow linearly with the increase in the rated capacity of the farm. For the case studies covered in this paper, a 100-fold increase in rated generation capacity of the farm results only in 7-fold increase in extracted power, this loss of efficiency is much greater than was estimated earlier with 1-D models. In case of high rated capacity of the farm, kinetic energy of currents is altered significantly as far as 10–20 km away from the farm. At high levels of extracted energy the currents tend to avoid flowing through the farm, an effect which is not captured with 1-D models. Residual currents are altered as far as a hundred kilometres. The magnitude of changes in the dispersion of tracers is highly sensitive to the location. For the drifters analysed in this study, variations in the end-to-start distance due to energy extraction range from 13% to 238%.