Tapping the tides

At the Third International Tidal Energy Summit in London next month, optimism will abound. A white paper will compare 120 different turbine designs, and hear about things like sealing systems designed to make tidal energy more environmentally-friendly.

Some years ago comedian Al Franken did a bit in which he tried to get the U.S. interested in tidal energy.

He played a Senator. But all was not green, because his character was also a wolfman. "We'll harness the Moo-o-o-o-o-o-n-n!" he crooned.

Here in the real world that can never happen, can it?

Yes it can.

At the Third International Tidal Energy Summit in London next month, optimism will abound. A white paper will compare 120 different turbine designs, and hear about things like sealing systems designed to make tidal energy more environmentally-friendly.

They will also focus on a report indicating ocean energy can supply today's total electricity needs more than four times over.

Advocates like the Ocean Energy Council say tidal energy projects use century-old technology, the same economics as in hydroelectric systems, and that tidal energy is reliable.

This is important because while entrepreneurs and governments have big plans for tidal projects around the world, environmental activism remains the biggest hurdle they face.

  • A project on England's Severn River is running into cost overruns, amid concerns about flood defenses and connecting it to the nation's electrical grid. England has a $36 million fund to spur such development.
  • A project in India's Gujarat is being held up by financing amid concerns it may all be a mirage.
  • An Australian ocean turbine firm has begun exports of its systems to South America.
  • An Irish company called WaveBob has demonstrated a buoy-shaped structure that absorbs energy from ocean waves (above).
  • San Francisco is in the final stages of getting permits for a tidal energy project near the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • New York wants to build a series of floating docks that will harness the tidal energy of the Hudson River while also providing the city with needed park land.
  • Canada wants to submerge a 1 Megawatt tidal turbine at the bottom of the famous Bay of Fundy. To a fish it will look like Sauron's Eye on the bottom of the sea.

Not everyone is thrilled with a tidal future. Fishermen in Massachusetts remain worried their livelihoods will be affected. There remain concerns about connecting systems to the grid, about reliability, about situating these systems in delicate ecosystems.

But tidal energy is moving forward. It's true, we really will harness the power of the Moon, but it's still strange. Not as strange as Al Franken in the Senate but strange enough.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All