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What’s that always moving, ceaselessly churning, often-overlooked source of renewable energy covering 70% of our planet? That’s right, our oceans – nature’s perpetual motion machine. New projects and innovations are in the works to take advantage of the immense power continuously unleashed on our shores around the world.
One of the most intriguing technologies in development is ocean thermal energy conversion or OTEC. OTEC utilizes temperature differences between warm surface water and cold seawater drawn from depths of more than a kilometer (where sunlight doesn’t reach) to drive turbines and generate electricity. Most useful for islands and high-energy draw naval bases, the first OTEC power plants to ever be constructed are in the planning stages in the Bahamas. Cold water not used for power generation can even be used to aid air conditioning systems, run desalination plants and allow cultivation of colder climate foodstuffs such as salmon and berries.
Numerous other wave power electrical generators are in testing phases around the world. The US Navy is testing energy-harnessing buoys at its Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. The Maine Technology Institute has issued a grant to an inventor there for research on “an elongated, self-orienting, wave front parallel, semi-submerged, utility scale wave energy absorption barrier.” And in the United Kingdom – the self-proclaimed wave and tidal power technology world leader – the government has offered a 20 million pound ($32 million dollar) prize to be split by two winning designs.
While the world’s oceans are an excellent sustainable energy option, their use has not been as heavily covered or invested in as higher-profile wind and solar power generation. However, with the current green movement and heavy focus on renewable energy, utility companies should be open to all viable eco-friendly power possibilities. Making waves has never been more promising.
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