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Last Updated: Wednesday December 07 2005 16:37 GMT

Wave and tide power

Ocean power provides less than 0.5% of the UK's power*

Waves

What is it?

Seawater moving around the coast of the UK can be used to provide energy. One way of doing this is with a kind of dam called a tidal barage. When the tide goes in or out, water is forced to move through narrow gaps where it drives turbines which generate electricity.

Wave and tidal power can also be harnessed. At the moment there are only a small number of wave and tidal stream devices installed around the UK

Strengths

This is renewable energy. The UK has a long coastline so we get lots of waves. Some parts of the UK have a big difference in height between high tide and low tide which means tide power has potential.

Weaknesses

Because the technology is new it will cost a lot to develop. There are also concerns about making big changes to the delicate environment of tidal basins.

The future

In future, underwater turbines may be possible out at sea and without dams. The development of wave power is said to be 10 years behind wind power. Also, tidal power in the UK is still at a research stage. That means lots of money would have to be spent developing ocean power before it could meet many of the UK's energy needs.

* Based on Department of Energy and Climate Change figures 2010. The exact proportions change yearly.