Ocean Energy

U.S. Department of Energy Funding New Research and Development Projects

by Carol Hautau

Now that Salem is firmly on the path to becoming one of the nation’s few offshore wind (OSW) power ports, maybe we should be thinking of the other ways we could be reaping the tremendous power of the ocean. Wind energy is not always available, especially at night; ocean waves, currents and tides are more reliable and predictable. It would seem a good idea to encourage our partners in this OSW venture to consider wave or current energy convertors in or around the future turbine sites.

“Maybe we should be thinking of the other ways we could be reaping the tremendous power of the ocean.”

Historically, quite a few attempts have been made to harness these tremendous forces and almost all of them have failed due to lack of incentive and mostly, lack of funds. A few have survived the planning phase and one that has been supplying electricity in Gilbraltar for a few years is now being moved to Los Angeles to hook up to the CA grid.

More recently, governments around the globe have lent support to testing a great variety of  ocean energy ideas, and now the U.S. government is stepping up with an announcement of new funds for the development of technologies that will harness wave, tidal and current energy. At the same time, studies are showing that warming waters are adding even more energy to the already immense power hidden in the waters offshore. Scientists at the Coastal Studies Research Institute in North Carolina calculate that capturing just 0.1 percent of the power in the Gulf Stream, which runs along the East Coast, would yield 300 GW – equivalent to more than 150 nuclear plants.

The climate crisis is now providing the necessary incentive to abandon fossil fuels, and the DOE support will be sure to inspire more investment. Let’s ride the tide.