NEWS: Ocean Current to Electricity... Coming Soon?

Dispatch from SSC Intern Barbara Summers

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University are in the process of making ocean currents a viable renewable energy resource. They are developing ocean turbines that will use the power of an ocean current to turn a turbine and produce electricity; they are designed in a similar way to a wind turbine. The goal of this project is to develop a renewable energy source for the State of Florida using the Gulf Stream current. Scientists are hoping to have pilot programs developed and underway with a 20-kilowatt underwater turbine, off the coast of Florida, by spring 2010. If the pilot program is successful, it is likely to take another 5 to 10 years before the technology can be fully implemented.

According to Sue Skemp, executive director at Florida Atlantic University's Center for Ocean Energy Technology:

The predictions at this point estimate that the strength of the Gulf Stream could generate anywhere between four to 10 gigawatts of power, the equivalent of 4 to 10 nuclear power plants.
That would produce enough electricity to power to 3 million to 7 million Florida homes or supply the state with one-third of its electricity. But before a project like this can go forward, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will have to look at a multiple factors including the effects it will have on wild and marine life, recreation activities, and shipping. The cost of such a project is also still unknown, although the state of Florida has allocated $13.75 million in grants toward research and development of the pilot project.

This project is still in its initial development stage, and there are a significant amount of issues that need to be figured out before ocean turbines can become a feasible option. I really hope that these kinks will be worked out after the pilot program, as the ocean could constitute a very powerful and completely renewable energy source for coastal areas throughout the country which would help alleviate the energy crisis.

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