An issue of Technology and Innovation – Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors featured an article describing three innovative energy technologies that have potentially world-changing impact. The first among the three energy technologies mentioned in the said article was Marine Renewable Energy (MRE). Proposed by Howard P. Hanson from Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center, MRE utilizes the enormous amount of kinetic and thermal potential energy possessed by the ocean.
The kinetic energy present in tidal currents and ocean waves, as well as the thermal potential resulting from the natural stratification of ocean waters, can be captured and harnessed using the appropriate technology for oceanic thermal conversion. The resulting power generated from this abundant source of energy can power homes and industrial complexes.
Ocean thermal technologies and tidal energy sources can change the lives of many people around the world. They are clean, sustainable, and renewable. Many countries are making strides in developing affordable ways to harness them in order to produce electricity. However, at this point, commercial applications are not yet viable.
Renewable ocean energy exists in several forms. There’s marine current power, tidal power, and wave power, which are all energy forms produced by the vigorous movement of ocean currents. Osmotic power is derived from the variations in water salinity with depth, while ocean thermal energy comes from the variations in temperature with depth. Think of the ocean as having layers of water arranged according to density, where the densest layer occurs at the bottom. Possessing different properties, these layers of water resist mixing. Both the salt concentration and temperature vary according to each layer, and with the right technology, the differences in salt concentration and temperature can be tapped to generate electricity.
There are three MRE centers in the United States. They are all set up by the US Department of Energy. The three centers share a common goal of researching and developing technologies that allows for the conversion of the abundant hydrokinetic and thermal energy into usable forms. In April 2013, the 6th Annual Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference will be held in Washington DC.
France is gearing up to enhance its MRE sector. The country’s Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy announced on February 25, 2013 a call for MRE-related research studies and projects. Plans for installing pilot underwater farms are also disclosed during the announcement.
In the UK, a report was unveiled by RenewableUK on February 27, 2013. The report detailed that UK, having the biggest marine energy clout in the world, could become a worldwide leader in MRE technologies complete with far-reaching export openings, provided that the government generously supports the promising clean-energy sector. In 2020, commercial-grade MRE arrays are set to be deployed in the UK.
The shift away from nonrenewable and cheap fossil fuel oil toward clean, renewable, and expensive energy sources is a trend that is simultaneously being embraced by many countries around the world. Just like the rapid advancements in solar energy technologies, it may not be long before research studies and projects related to MRE will sprout affordable commercial-ready options.