The Power of the Tides
These days surfers aren’t the only ones searching for powerful waves during low and high tide. Scientists are tapping into the power of the tides as a renewable source of energy. Most of the attention is usually on solar or wind power, however, wave power is still developing and can be a promising source of energy. Annette von Jouanne a professor of electrical engineering at Oregon State University and a team of graduate students have tested this new technology (NY Times). The prototype uses the steady motion of waves to generate energy.
There are several other technologies attempting to capture energy from the ocean. Some are nearshore, offshore, or far offshore. There are terminator devices, oscillating water columns, and point absorbers. Some place electricity generators on the ocean surface while others mimic floating buoys and act as energy converters. Output is usually determined by wave height, speed, and density. Therefore, some areas are better equipped to generate wave energy.
In 2008, Portugal developed the first wave farm off its coast called Agucadoura. It has three wave energy converters producing 2.25MW and generates power for 1,500 homes. Imagine the amount of energy that could potentially be trapped if the practice of wave power using these converters increased. The energy needs of our future could be solved.
There are several concerns regarding wave power such as its impact on marine habitats, toxic releases from leaks, conflicts with commercial shipping, etc. These and other environmental considerations will need to be addressed as this energy source develops and improves.
Tidal power is still in its infancy, but so was wind power a few decades ago and now it is the fastest growing renewable energy source. Creating clean energy means independence from fossil fuels, whether it’s tidal or geothermal. By using wave power projects similar to the Agucadoura can save 60,000 tons of CO2 per year. Our oceans cover about 70% of the globe, harnessing energy from currents, tides, and waves seems like a promising, clean source of renewable energy.