Interest in renewable energy development to mitigate climate change and provide a secure energy source includes investigation into the feasibility of marine renewable energy sources, including the harnessing of tides. Tidal renewable energy is a growing area of research and development with key benefits including its location near coastal communities, minimal viewshed impacts, a powerful ocean resource, and a uniquely high level of predictability. I conducted a research study to understand perceptions of risk and benefit around tidal energy development, focusing on lessons learned from a proposed project in Puget Sound, WA. I used grounded theory methodology to conduct interviews and a focus group, and to analyze these data. I used scenarios to show conceptual tidal energy technology alternatives, with a focus on considering not only technical differences, but also economic, environmental, and social dimensions. Results of my study show that there is much uncertainty in this new technology, and aspects of its development were perceived as being risks or benefits. Spatial position and scale were both common frameworks for considering trade-offs, and marine life interactions were a particularly sensitive area of risk. Market applications of tidal energy aligned seemingly conflicting goals, as slow, sustainable development of this technology enhanced the benefits from many perspectives. My study shows that slowly building from small to commercial scale, working collaboratively with many disciplines, and focusing on holistic learning may be crucial for tidal energy development, especially in advance of a clear drive for a fully renewable energy market.