Ocean Based Renewable Energy

Posted on February 09, 2004
 
We as a nation, are lacking in our clear absence of commitment to our national ocean opportunities offshore renewable energy opportunities and the importance of our maritime future. The opportunities for offshore renewable energy are vast, offshore wind energy alone could represent a significant energy resource in domestic renewable energy generation. Wave energy is now approaching commercialization with a significant number of technologies now reaching final R&D to early commercial status. Tidal, current, thermal gradient, saline gradient, methane hydrates all of these have been identified and all have some near term potential and many have been demonstrated, scientifically studied and their findings peer reviewed for publication in professional journals.

It is critical that we recognize the fact that the oceans will be the final frontier for mankind, and how we approach this final void in human designation and knowledge will determine our future. We must transition to domestic renewable energy resources which mitigate the environmental degradation of our ocean environment. Queen Beatice of the Netherlands put it quite factually when she stated that we as a race are killing our oceans and that this must stop. We have witnessed the death of 96% of the worlds coral, mostly due to non-point source pollution and global warming according to scientists at the Coral Reef Alliance with over two generations of scientific research into this crisis.

Our oceans represent a significant resource opportunity and much progress has been made over the past decade to the point where offshore renewable energy is beginning to hold it's own in realistic resource potential. Offshore wind energy is the main focus of the wind energy industry movement toward larger machines, now approaching 5 Megawatts in capacity which are nearly impossible to site on land because of their sheer size, in the wind industry which is the fastest growing sector in the world in installed energy capacity. Growth approached 40% in Europe last year in the overall growth of installed capacity of on and offshore wind power. From the west coast to the Atlantic from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, offshore energy opportunities exist for our nation.

When we review the upcoming revolution to the Hydrogen economy the electricity source of choice is renewable and in many cases offshore renewables providing access to the feed water stock for the hydrogen generation process as well. Perhaps a broad spectrum of offshore renewable energy resources are just beyond the grasp economically, but many make sense today in areas where the resource is above average. As a nation we must turn our course into this debate and steer toward a more secure future and toward more sustainable seas. The Bay of Fundy has a tidal energy installation operated by Nova Scotia Power. It's been a success overall, but they have had to deal with silting problems due to the very aggressive nature of the natural tidal bore. In Norway, Scotland and the Azores, wave energy installations have been operational for quite some time and the Japanese are particularly focused upon the potential of ocean based energy and alternative sustainable resource opportunities. Twenty years ago there were more failures than successes in the broader renewable energy spectrum, but technology has improved across the board and the ocean based renewable energy is a component of this evolutionary progress. It is now time for us to engage in this initiative, and yes today as a nation we do have too little offshore renewable energy.

The international demographic trends further highlight the potential and the need for ocean based resource use. The growth is along the coast, identify the worlds largest cities, then identify how many are within 50 miles of the coast of a major body of water (ocean, sea, great lake) you will quickly see the correlation. I would suggest a review of the current technology before making a decision. Check the Marine Technology Journal, Winter 2002-2003 edition, from the Marine Technology Society for some informative material.

 
 
Authored By:
Born May 23, 1953 Cape Cod Hospital, Hyannis, Massachusetts.1990- Present: Founder, The Conservation Consortium, 1 Atlantic Avenue, South Yarmouth, MA 02664, Cape Cod, USA. TCC is a non-profit company dedicated to helping achieve a sustainable future through supporting innovative technology implementation. The company is engaged in the technical development and integration of equipment for alternative resource utilization specifically targeted for non-point source pollution mitigation for coastal zone locations. Ocean Ranch,
 

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Comments

February, 09 2004

Brian Huse says

While we could not agree more with Queen Beatrice that "we are killing our oceans," Mr. Braginton-Smith is incorrect about the loss of corals. Though he refers to the Coral Reef Alliance when he claims we have lost 96% of the world's corals, Mr. Braginton-Smith did not contact us, nor is his statistic correct. Scientistic estimates related to the loss of coral due to human sources ranges from 20 to 40%. Most agree that we are in danger of losing up to 50% of remaining corals in the next 50 years unless significant action is not taken.

Over fishing, destructive fishing, coastal development, sewage, and global climate change all contribute to coral stress and death. The Coral Reef Alliance and our many partners in reef conservation are actively pursuing numerous efforts to halt the destruction.

As the population of coastal areas continues to grow, creating greater pressure on coral reefs, we would be well advised to pursue energy conservation initiatives, rather than further development of the ocean environment, to meet our energy needs. While limited and carefully planned energy energy development from ocean sources may one day prove sustainable, it should not take the place of conservation.

February, 17 2004

Roger Bedard says

I agree. Offshore ocean energy is too important a resource to continue to overlook in this country. I believe that we would be foolish as a nation to not look into whether offshore ocean energy can be cost effective relative to other renewable and non renewable options. My last comment - it is unheard of for any energy source to be developed without Federal funding support. Since most of us do not have the resources of a Bill Gates or of the Federal Government, we must all individually do what we can and at least make sure that our elected representatives know how we feel.

February, 17 2004

caleb degrenier says

I agree with the author. The United States must join the ranks of other nations leading in the way to design and implement technologies that harness energy from our vast oceans. The author touches on another very important point that while tapping into this natural and fragile resource we must also be vigilant conservationists. There exists a great risk that the rush to “cash in” on ocean-based renewable energy may have a serious negative impact on the environment. It would be a tragedy to create a new problem while attempting to solve one that already exists.

An area to consider when discussing ocean-based renewable energy is our social attitude. It seems apparent that economic and social conditions in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands are conducive to this movement. Are the people of the United States ready for this? I think Brian Huse’s comment regarding conservation hits the nail on the head. As long as the people of this country do not even see the need to conserve our current sources of energy, it will be difficult to heighten interest in renewable energy. The reason some other countries have been so bold in their pursuit of ocean-power is that they cannot withstand the prices that must be paid for oil and they lack other natural resources such as coal. These days in the Netherlands folks are paying upwards of $5.50 per gallon for gasoline (http://www.theaa.com/allaboutcars/fuel/motfue001.html). I cannot imagine that the demand for super-sized SUV’s would be so high if Americans were not so fortunate as to have such low gas prices. I think the one thing that we lack today is the social condition needed to divert attention to ocean based (and other) renewable energy sources; scarcity.

On a positive note, a generator based on tidal current is being installed in the San Francisco bay(http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3339905). Hopefully the California trend-setters are onto something.

February, 28 2004

Christopher Kuntz says

I live in North Bay, Ontario, Canada. Our company, www.canwindpower.com, has been lobbying governments and utilities in Ontario to do two things. One, build wind farms in rural parts of our province so that we may revitalize communities that often suffer with double digit unemployment. Two, to build these wind farms off shore in Lake Superior and Lake Huron ( and potentially in some smaller Lakes such as Lake Nipissing or Lake Simcoe ).

We believe that it is possible to do this sort of development because if the machines are not visible then there will be less objection to our development. We also believe that is possible to do this sort of development because clearly where there is more wind, one will find investors eager to get more return on their investment. Lastly, we believe that this sort of development will provide sorely needed skilled employment for our children. Not to mention electricity being produced closer to the source of where it is need most.

We in Ontario ( which holds much more fresh water than most parts of the world ) aught well be concerned about how we care for our most precious resource. I would hazard to guess that 90% of the population of Ontario lives within 5km of a lake or river. Wind power is one way to have better stewardship for our fresh water resource. The economic benefits are clearly a benefit which can only aid in our quest to have 50 - 100 MW wind farms build off shore between 2005 and 2010.

Your article was a pleasant reminder about why our company should keep pressing forward with our often viewed as optimistic goals. Who would not want to be in an industry growing at a rate of 40% a year in Europe? As the price of electricity rises in Ontario, so will demand for our services.

Thank You Chris Kuntz, President www.canwindpower.com

October, 22 2004

Bill Kennedy says

To whom it may concern:

The wonderful feature of Brian is that he is a dreamer. Founded by those dreams, the world is a better place, a happier place and a cleaner place. Views which many hold dear to their heart and views held dear to the heart of myself, my family and SO many others who believed strongly enough to put some hard-earned, tax-paid money behind those views.

Since doing so and, having witnessed his subsequent successes, myself, my family and many others on the East side of the Pond, feel no less committed to those views, but feel desperately DISillusioned by the fact that Brian's dreams cost us dear.

The validity of his aims, objectives and outcomes are if anything all the more valid now, but at what cost ?? Well ... speaking for myself and my family, a not inconsiderable sum of money. Money well spent ?? Maybe yes, but Oh, for some staight answers on where it all went.

Bill Kennedy - resident in Scotland.

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