TCL taps changing tides to generate energy | Technical College of the LowCountry

TCL taps changing tides to generate energy

December 17, 2009

Notice: This article is published more than one year ago. Information in this article may be dated or irrelevant.

BEAUFORT, S.C. – You’ve probably heard of wind and solar energy generation. But what about tidal power? The industrial technologies division at the Technical College of the Lowcountry has more than heard about it; they’re creating it.


TCL is demonstrating the possibilities of tidal energy, where an electrical generator has been installed in the Beaufort River. The river’s tidal swell, estimated at about eight feet, makes it an excellent location to study and harness the physical energy generated by the changing tides.


The generator, designed and built by TCL students and faculty, is mounted on a float and propelled by a paddle wheel motion system.


It has already generated enough electricity – 60 watts per hour at full tide – to power 1000 LED lights for the TCL holiday tree displayed this December. TCL featured a time-lapse video of the lighting of the tree in its electronic holiday greeting card. To view the video, please visit


“What’s so exciting is that this is only the beginning,” said Everett Feight, dean of the industrial technologies division at TCL. “The future of tidal power generation and its application is limitless. The faculty in the Industrial Technology division at TCL will continue to explore this exciting technology.”


The project enabled faculty and students to be a part of original research – from the design, to the testing, to the suggesting of improvements. The initial tidal generator prototype design was basic but provided faculty and student designers with a lot of valuable data on how the design could become more efficient.


“This pilot initiative showed us the concept works. Additional designs will be tested this coming spring, and it’s likely that some workshops will be planned so community residents and business firms in our area can implement this energy saving alternative,” said Feight.


Tidal energy, at a basic level, could be used to recharge boat batteries or to power lighting for docks, Feight said.


Alternative energy sources, such as tidal energy, are increasingly important as the U.S. aims to reduce its dependence on carbon fuels by 10% by 2012. That number increases to 20% by 2015. As a result, programs in alternative energy are increasing in demand.


This initiative was made possible in part through an $86,000 Wal-Mart Foundation grant that TCL received in November 2008 to jumpstart the LEED “green” program. TCL was one of only 20 community and technical colleges nationwide selected by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to participate in the Wal-Mart Workforce and Economic Opportunity Initiative.


“The green building industry is a critical component of how we’re trying to shape our region both environmentally and economically. With help from TCL’s new programs, the Lowcountry can become a hub for green building initiatives,” said Kim Statler, Executive Director of the Lowcountry Economic Network.


TCL will use its program in alternative energy to teach students how to take advantage of the area’s natural, renewable resources. In addition, TCL is also offering new certificates in managing green residential construction and indoor environmental quality. TCL’s building construction programs have been revamped to incorporate green LEED techniques, which value environmentally sustainable construction. Many certificates can be completed in just one semester.


Spring classes start January 11. For more information, please visit TCL Green Initiatives.

Contact: Leigh Copeland
Office: 843- 525-8231

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