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.

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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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