Monday, January 30, 2012
Ocean Motion Could Produce 9 Percent of U.S. Electricity by John Roach
A map generated by Georgia Tech's tidal energy resource database shows mean current speed of tidal streams.
Next-generation technologies that harvest electricity from ocean waves and tides sloshing along the U.S. coasts could provide about 9 percent of the nation's demand by 2030, according to a pair of recent studies.
The findings, which include maps of these ocean energy resources, should help guide companies looking to develop them.
"We have believed for a long time that the resource was significant and these assessments add a tremendous level of confidence what that potential is," Mike Reed, water power team lead with the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind and Water Program told me Monday.
Today, about 6 percent of the nation's electricity comes from traditional hydropower projects, such as the Grand Coulee Dam, that direct the flow of the river through turbines to generate power.
Since such dams plug up rivers and make it difficult for migrating fish species such as salmon to reach their spawning grounds, they have lost favor in recent years.
Looking forward, energy developers see promise in technologies that capture the energy in waves and tides off the coasts.
Designs to do this range from buoys that harness the up-and-down motion of passing waves to turbines on the ocean floor that are spun by the ebb and flow of the tides.
The studies released earlier this month from the U.S. Department of Energy could help nudge along the development and deployment of these technologies by showing the resource is there to be captured.