Are Wave and Tidal Energy Plants New Green Technologies?
Wave and tidal energy plants are upcoming, potentially green technologies. This study aims at quantifying their various potential environmental impacts. Three tidal stream devices, one tidal range plant and one wave energy harnessing device are analyzed over their entire life cycles, using the ReCiPe 2008 methodology at midpoint level. The impacts of the tidal range plant were on average 1.6 times higher than the ones of hydro-power plants (without considering natural land transformation). A similar ratio was found when comparing the results of the three tidal stream devices to offshore wind power plants (without considering water depletion). The wave energy harnessing device had on average 3.5 times higher impacts than offshore wind power. On the contrary, the considered plants have on average 8 (wave energy) to 20 (tidal stream), or even 115 times (tidal range) lower impact than electricity generated from coal power. Further, testing the sensitivity of the results highlighted the advantage of long lifetimes and small material requirements. Overall, this study supports the potential of wave and tidal energy plants as alternative green technologies. However, potential unknown effects, such as the impact of turbulence or noise on marine ecosystems, should be further explored in future research.