The world's hydroeletric dams have demonstrated the awesome power of water pressure. Today's up-and-coming water-based energy technologies rely on forces from the coastal tides to feed the grid. A growing number of coastal areas are installing tidal and wave technology due to the incredible electricity-generating potential of undersea and seawall turbines.
There are significant benefits in tide-based energy harvesting, and many of its biggest challenges are slowly being overcome with collaboration and innovation.
Deployment and operational challenges
The marine hydrokinetic (MHK) innovators may want to harness the energy of ocean tides but they are also at the mercy of them. Often the best areas to place turbines are the most dangerous. Significant investments must be made to ensure the safety of installers and the long-term integrity of the generators.
The collaboration of scientists, researchers, government power officials and inventors is making it possible to refine tidal-stream turbine operations. One tidal power company was recently awarded a $2.25 million federal grant to explore ways to lower costs to deploy, anchor and retrieve MHK systems.
Public and shared private research will continue to standardize MHK procedures and policies to make the technology competitive and accessible to a greater number of energy firms. Learning how to safely repair and replace infrastructure in harsh marine conditions is largely a trial-and-error procedure at this point, but knowing the risks and the solutions to problems will increase participation in MHK projects.
The oceans and coasts are already facing environmental degradation from a variety of sources. Some coastal communities and marine life experts are wary of adding to the woes of their shores. There are worries about turbines harming whales, seals and dolphins which will turn many in the public off from supporting MHK projects.
Some manufacturers have installed sensors on turbines that cause them to stop when sea mammals are approaching. Other inventors and researchers are developing additional ways to reduce any negative impacts on ocean creatures, but they'll need solid research to gain approval for MHK turbines in sensitive areas.
Building sea walls that generate electricity as waves break over them is a great idea too, but it has severe environmental impacts. These effects are profound in river inlets and sensitive spawning areas. However, energy companies can get around this concern by installing turbines where sea walls and levies already exist, since this will minimize any additional environmental impacts.
The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that one third of the nation's power requirements may potentially be sourced from the 24/7 movement of the rolling seas. Smart energy firms should seriously consider dipping their toes in the MHK waters.
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After struggling with yet another high power bill, I realized I really needed to work on my home's energy efficiency. I started thinking about what I was doing wrong, and it occurred to me that it might be smart to install solar panels and perhaps a windmill. I started going through and evaluating my personal impact on the power grid, and I was able to calculate that those additions would be a good idea. This blog is all about reducing your impact on the environment so that you can enjoy a happier, greener life, and spend less money during the process.