Tidal energy is a growing area of research and development with key benefits including its location near coastal communities, minimal viewshed impacts, and uniquely high level of predictability. This research study seeks to understand perceptions of risk and benefit around tidal energy development, focusing on a proposed project in Puget Sound, WA. Grounded theory methodology is used to analyze interview and focus group data. Tidal energy scenarios show various conceptual technology alternatives, with a focus on considering not only technical differences, but also economic, environmental, and social dimensions. Uncertainty shapes values, and various aspects are considered in terms of risks and benefits. Space and scale are both common frameworks for considering trade-offs, and marine life interactions are a particularly sensitive area of risk. Applications of tidal energy may change perspective of project viability and align seemingly conflicting goals. Collaboratively working together, slowly building from small to commercial scale, and focusing on holistic learning may be crucial for tidal energy development, especially before a clear drive for a fully marine renewable energy market arises.