|Fig. 1: Tidal stream generator, located in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
As there are growing concerns with climate change, low lying states in the continental United States have been confronted with the possibility of rising sea levels. Florida is one of these states. Due to many miles of coastline, Florida has the unique opportunity to pursue renewable energy like tidal power.
Tidal power converts the energy in tides to electricity. The tide shifts due to the gravitational pulls of the Sun, Earth, and Moon. The more variation in tides translates to more potential for more generation of power.  Due to this fact, tidal power's viability varies on location. Tidal power also may be able to compete with the costs of other forms of energy. A study showed that tidal power in some tested locations could produce electricity at 4.2 to 6.5 cents per kilowatt- hour.  In the Maine site tested, the standard offer for customers was 8.4 cents per kilowatt-hour using other forms of energy. 
There are three types of generating tidal power: tidal stream generator, tidal barrage, and dynamic tidal power.  The tidal stream generator functions similarly to a wind turbine in the water. An example of such a turbine is shown in Fig. 1. Tidal barrage operates like a dam. It lets water flow in and then controls the flow out during low tide through turbines.  Dynamic tidal power is an experimental method. It essentially would be a large dam that would extend from coast to sea and interfere with coast-parallel tidal waves. 
Florida has thousands of miles of coastline, which makes it a logical place to pursue tidal power. The potential is massive - coming out to about 5.1 gigawatts of untapped power off of Florida's coast.  This figure does not include the energy that could come from the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is a warm water current that flows from the Caribbean to Europe. The current flows at 8 billion gallons per minute so there is some potential there.  There are currently prototypes being developed at Florida Atlantic University. They are also making designs for slow-moving currents.  Researchers at FAU also say that the turbines would not harm marine life. 
Tidal power is still in its infancy, but there is more and more talk about implementing it in Florida due to its many benefits. One of the main benefits of tidal power is that tides are more predictable than wind energy or solar.  This massive potential combined with the need for renewable energy makes Florida the prime spot for pursuing tidal power in the continental United States.
© Wesley Olmsted. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 S. M. R. Tousif and S. M. B. Taslim, "Tidal Power: An Effective Method of Generating Power," International Journal of Scientific and Engineering Research 2, No. 5 (2011).
 "Tidal Power May Provide Cheaper Energy Source," NBC News, 26 Jun 06.
 B. Cronan, "How Ocean Current Could Power Half the Homes in Florida," Christian Science Monitor, 4 Dec 14.
 G. Allen, "Harnessing the Power of the Gulf Stream," NPR, 3 Dec 07.