What Will the Future Hold for Marine Energy Technologies?

I’ve heard a lot about underwater turbine windows to harness the kinetic energies of the earth’s ocean currents, which have the potential to create enough electricity to supply world demand. Supposedly, the underwater grids could be routed to all countries in need of electricity, providing an endless and constantly renewable resource. — Catherine K., Des Moines, Iowa

Well, Catherine, we are on our way to that vision. Right now, many of the marine energy projects and concepts are scattered, but that will begin to change as the industry matures.

A series of companies has begun the journey to meet this challenge. Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) is a developer of tidal energy technology and projects. The core component of ORPC’s proprietary Ocean Current Generation (OCGen™) technology will be tested at one of ORPC’s tidal energy sites in Eastport, ME in December 2007 to provide a proof of concept. ORPC has Preliminary Permits from FERC for two tidal energy sites in Maine and one in Alaska. Following the turbine demonstration project, ORPC plans to design, build, test and monitor a commercial scale OCGen™ module.

Another company, Oceana, is in the third of six planned pre-commercial development and testing phases of its scaled prototype ocean current power generation devices, which includes deployment of one or more grid connected demonstration projects in U.S. waters by the end of 2008. Verdant Power has successfully placed five freeflow tidal units in the East River, which will leverage a myriad of other urban sites, as well as new private investment in the company.

Ocean Power Technologies
of New Jersey has deployed its own wave-powered buoys off of New Jersey and in Hawaii. However, as Renewable Energy Access reported recently, just hours before its scheduled removal earlier this month, Finavera Renewables’ AquaBuOY 2.0 sunk, which shows there is still much to learn about harvesting energy from our globe’s waters.

As I have said many times before, water energy technologies are the real sleeper in renewable energy, and I expect that wave, tidal, freeflow hydropower, and ocean thermal and ocean currents could easily meet 10 percent of the world’s energy needs. This will take patience and cooperation from the world’s governments who own and regulate their waterways, so these industries can accelerate, grow, and scale-up.