Washington residents back tidal power

Illustration/OpenHydro tidal turbine (Photo: DCNS)

A University of Washington (UW) study has found that Washington residents support tidal energy, especially those living close to the tidal resource rich Puget Sound.

The research that examined Washington residents’ perceptions and support for tidal energy showed that people who believe climate change is a problem and see potential benefits to using tidal energy are more likely to support such projects.

Also, connecting pilot projects to the electricity grid is an important factor in garnering public support, the UW said.

Stacia Dreyer, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and the lead author of the study, said: “If you are going to have a pilot project, it’s really important that it’s grid-connected, and producing electricity and powering homes or businesses. I think people want to know that a project is effective and that it’s benefiting them ― one of those ways is to supply power.”

On the other hand, the larger the perceived risks of tidal energy, the less likely residents are to support such efforts.

Respondents were also asked about their support during all phases of a hypothetical tidal energy project.

The study found that Washington residents support tidal energy to a greater degree during the research and development phase in the lab, but once the turbines move outside of the lab and into the water, that support drops.

The survey was conducted among 3,000 Washington residents, split equally among people who lived within 15 miles of the Puget Sound shore and those who lived elsewhere in the state. This was to measure whether proximity to the water influenced how people felt about tidal energy.

The researchers will use the survey results paired with news articles about the Admiralty Inlet project to examine the opinions of various stakeholder groups, including the general public, for their next study.

To remind, the Admiralty Inlet pilot tidal project was dropped in 2015 by the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) as it was determined the project was no longer economically feasible.

The PUD was granted a license for the project a year earlier that was supposed to feature two 300kW OpenHydro tidal turbines on the east side of Admiralty Inlet in Puget Sound.

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