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The Science of Climate Change

Climate change is no longer a distant threat or just a possibility, it is now a reality for all of us. In this pathway, Kevin Trenberth, a renowned climatologist, delves into the science behind climate change. He first introduces the climate system, its main components and forces.

Tackling the Plastic Crisis

Plastic pollution is by far the biggest threat to our oceans and this remains an incredibly tough problem to solve. Plastic credits could potentially serve as one of the much needed solutions for this crisis.

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The Scale of the Net Zero Challenge

The price of meeting net zero is estimated to be between $100-150 trillion over the next 30 years. Regardless of this cost, we need to reach net zero before climate change does irreversible damage to the environment and the economy.

ESG, Sustainability and Impact Jargon Buster

ESG, sustainability, impact… they all just mean green, right? Not quite. Despite being used often interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms.

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Featured Pathways

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The Science of Climate Change

Climate change is no longer a distant threat or just a possibility, it is now a reality for all of us. In this pathway, Kevin Trenberth, a renowned climatologist, delves into the science behind climate change. He first introduces the climate system, its main components and forces.

Tackling the Plastic Crisis

Plastic pollution is by far the biggest threat to our oceans and this remains an incredibly tough problem to solve. Plastic credits could potentially serve as one of the much needed solutions for this crisis.

More pathways

Ready to get started?

PLANS & MEMBERSHIP

Our Platform

Expert led content

+1,000 expert presented, on-demand video modules

Learning analytics

Keep track of learning progress with our comprehensive data

Interactive learning

Engage with our video hotspots and knowledge check-ins

Testing & certification

Gain CPD / CPE credits and professional certification

Managed learning

Build, scale and manage your organisation’s learning

Integrations

Connect Sustainability Unlocked to your current platform

Featured Content

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The Scale of the Net Zero Challenge

The price of meeting net zero is estimated to be between $100-150 trillion over the next 30 years. Regardless of this cost, we need to reach net zero before climate change does irreversible damage to the environment and the economy.

ESG, Sustainability and Impact Jargon Buster

ESG, sustainability, impact… they all just mean green, right? Not quite. Despite being used often interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms.

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Ready to get started?

Ready to get started?

Introduction to Wave and Tidal Energy

Introduction to Wave and Tidal Energy

Colin Palmer

40 years: Renewable energy

Wave and tidal energy are, subjectively, both abundant and powerful sources of natural energy. In this video, Colin explains the reason why wave energy is much less commercialised than wind and solar energy and the challenges surrounding wave energy development. He further talks about the cost differential between wave, tidal and offshore wind energies.

Wave and tidal energy are, subjectively, both abundant and powerful sources of natural energy. In this video, Colin explains the reason why wave energy is much less commercialised than wind and solar energy and the challenges surrounding wave energy development. He further talks about the cost differential between wave, tidal and offshore wind energies.

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Introduction to Wave and Tidal Energy

10 mins 56 secs

Overview

Wave and tidal energy are, subjectively, both abundant and powerful sources of natural energy. Despite this “common sense”observation, they are both at a very early stage of development when compared to the other marine based renewable energy, offshore wind energy. Individual offshore wind projects are sized in GW, yet the total global wave energy deployment to date is only a few MW, tidal energy maybe a few tens of MW.

Both wave and tidal energy have been researched in great detail over the years, most notably, for wave energy, during the UK wave energy programme of the late 1970s. Around the same time, the development of tidal barrages in locations such as the River Severn was investigated. More recently, government and commercial research has switched to tidal stream technologies, with prototypes now starting to be deployed. The costs of these technologies are at present several times that of offshore wind.

Even if these developments do succeed in driving costs down to a competitive level, the resources for both wave energy and tidal energy are more limited and localised than for offshore wind.

Key learning objectives:

  • Explain why wave energy is much less commercialised than wind and solar energy

  • Explain the difference between tidal barrages and tidal stream technologies

  • Contrast the cost differential between wave, tidal and offshore wind energies

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Summary

What is the most significant challenge facing wave energy development?

Extreme weather at sea can create enormous waves containing many thousands of times more energy than the average, and wave energy devices have to be able to survive these conditions. To date, no one has been able to design a device that combines being effective at extracting energy from average conditions and also able to avoid responding to the extreme conditions. This means that wave energy devices have to be built to withstand loads that are many, many times greater than they experience most of the time, resulting in high structural costs compared to the energy output.

What are the two fundamental concepts for power generation from the tides?

Like the tidal mills of old, tidal barrages use the difference in water height between high water and low water, converting the potential energy in the water. In contrast, tidal stream devices extract energy from the moving water in a tidal stream, the kinetic energy.

What are the costs of wave and tidal energy compared to offshore wind energy?

Wave energy development is still at a stage where there are no significant commercial deployments and consequently no operational history from which it is possible to determine the cost of energy. The lack of deployments, despite a number of subsidy support schemes, suggests that the costs are still many time that of wind energy.

Tidal stream energy is a little further down the cost curve, with a number of pre-commercial devices in, or shortly to enter, operation. But here again, their costs have not been market tested and substantial subsidy levels are said to be required, whereas offshore wind is more or less competitive with long term wholesale power prices.

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Colin Palmer

Colin Palmer

Colin has been involved in renewable energy since the late 1970's. In 1988 he launched his own renewable energy company Windcluster Ltd, which financed and built one of the first wind farms in the UK. Colin has also been a director of the British Wind Energy Association and ReGen Southwest as well as a trustee of the Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol.

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