Understanding and providing proactive information on the potential for tidal energy projects to cause changes to the physical system and to key water quality constituents in tidal waters is a necessary and cost-effective means to avoid costly regulatory involvement and late stage surprises in the permitting process. This paper presents a modeling study for evaluating the tidal energy extraction and its potential impacts on the marine environment in a real world site – Tacoma Narrows of Puget Sound, Washington State, USA. An unstructured-grid coastal ocean model, fitted with a module that simulates tidal energy devices, was applied to simulate the tidal energy extracted by different turbine array configurations and the potential effects of the extraction at local and system-wide scales in Tacoma Narrows and South Puget Sound. Model results demonstrated the advantage of an unstructured-grid model for simulating the far-field effects of tidal energy extraction in a large model domain, as well as assessing the near-field effect using a fine grid resolution near the tidal turbines. The outcome shows that a realistic near-term deployment scenario extracts a very small fraction of the total tidal energy in the system and that system wide environmental effects are not likely; however, there are near-field effects on the flow field and bed shear stress in the area of tidal turbine farm. Model results also indicate that from a practical standpoint, hydrodynamic or water quality effects are not likely to be the limiting factor for development of large commercial-scale tidal farms. Results indicate that very high numbers of turbines are required to significantly alter the tidal system; limitations on marine space or other environmental concerns are likely to be reached before reaching these deployment levels. These findings show that important information obtained from numerical modeling can be used to inform regulatory and policy processes for tidal energy development.
- Tidal energy extraction by tidal turbine farms was simulated in Tacoma Narrows.
- Potential environmental effects due to tidal energy extraction were evaluated.
- Extraction of a very small fraction of the total tidal energy has little system-wide effect.
- Local effects on flow field and bed stress near tidal turbines are likely to occur.
- Marine space is likely to be the limiting factor for development of large tidal farms.