Green energy from the depths of the ocean or surfing on the waves, is there a feasible way to use that energy? Thermal ocean options are being peeked in on but so far the wave is the thing. Three main research paths for ocean energy have emerged, ocean thermal energy conversion or OTEC, tidal energy and wave energy.
The United States leads the way with its facility in Hawaii in research efforts in OTEC. There are different techniques being explored but all seek to exploit temperature differences between warm water on the surface and cold water pumped up from the depths. This has met with limited success and there are as of yet no commercial operations.
Tidal energy projects place turbines in tidal flow streams using the stream to turn the turbine. The idea is to go with the flow. So far there are limited coastal applications but no deep water experimentation.
Tidal barrages are designed to stop the flow of the tidal stream and operate fundamentally like a hydroelectric plant on a river. There are currently two operating plants, one in France and one in Nova Scotia. The application is limited to amenable landscapes.
Wave technology is the early winner in this game with over 1000 patents for devices already. So far the oscillation method or making use of the up and down motion of the waves as they move through the water column is the one in practice. A commercial plant is in operation on the Isle of Islay in Scotland that produces 500kw of power.
Plans are approved but not quite underway off the coast of Cornwall. This project is aimed at research and development and commercial applications. A collection hub will be surrounded by up to forty floating devices and send the electricity generated to shore via a fifteen mile cable. From the cable it will be dumped into the national electric grid.
There are three wave device developers involved in the Cornwall project. Numerous energy producing techniques will hopefully arise from the project. The Cornwall coastal region is hoping that they can ride the wave of green energy into positive economic development.
No waste or detrimental emissions arise with any of the methods of extracting energy from the ocean. There are some environmental questions that do arise. Thermal energy may change the water chemistry and temperature. With all methods there will be habitat alteration. Collisions with turbine blades and platforms are inevitable.
Lot's of research, lot's of hard work but I have to have faith that we'll find many solutions to our energy problems. We have no choice but to think in greener terms. Man long dreamed of perpetual motion perhaps we'll approach it, maybe even find it.