What is Ocean Power?
Wave energy utilizes the movement of the waves in order to generate electricity. The up and down movement of the ocean is harnessed to produce power. Another way of utilizing the ocean’s waves is by focusing the waves into a narrowing channel, the resulting concentrated power is then used to rotate turbines and generate electricity.
Tidal energy is another source of ocean power. Its discovery dates back to 787 AD which makes it one of the oldest forms of renewable energy. When the water level changes between high and low tides, the ebb and flow motion of the ocean waves can be captured and utilized to produce electricity. The most classic systems are tidal turbines which are placed in areas with strong tidal flows. This method is similar to the wind turbines currently in use all over the world.
The ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) often works in tropical regions where there could be a significant difference between the deep temperatures and the surface temperatures. The temperature difference between the two is used as a source of energy. Although Hawaii has experimented with this system, since the systems are not very energy efficient, the viability of implementing it on a large-scale basis has not yet risen.
It is estimated that the coasts of the United States can bring 252 billion kilowatt-hours a year by utilizing wave energy alone. This would cover nearly 7% of the total electricity consumption of the US, decreasing the amount of non-renewable fossil fuels currently being used to generate electricity.
The cost of electricity generated by ocean power is primarily dependent on the construction. In tidal energy, the technology is well developed, but the hydroelectric generating equipment along with the barrage may take as many as 10 years to construct and is quite expensive. In addition, damming an estuary or bay and changing the tidal flows could create a negative impact on the marine life, shoreline ecosystem, and navigational or recreational activities.
Ocean power is a truly a renewable energy. With over 70% of the earth being covered by ocean, it stands to be a significant and powerful source of energy. Modern science has developed many eco friendly ways to harness this power. Any new solution will inevitably present potential issues. Therefore we must continue to learn how to harness clean renewable energies, like ocean power, without sacrificing its inhabitants in the process.