Oceans as energy sources

Renewable energy from the ocean is an ever-hopeful possibility. Harnessing the elements for energy is not new, but the latest technological experiments in energy from the ocean may prove to be the most economical. Not only that, it may be more accessible than solar energy. On a small scale and especially in California, the sun has been the best bet for a clean, renewable source; yet it is not cost effective for large-scale use.

Enter the wind and the ocean. Of the two, the ocean is believed to be the wind technology advocates’ future competitor. It is being tested in a big way and shows promise. There are three ways the Ocean can give us energy:

Ocean wave energy

The force of the waves as they heave upward and rush forward with force is keeping engineers and scientists and inventors busy trying to figure out ways to make this work for the rest of the world and not leave it for surfers’ delight only.

Of all ocean energy potential, ocean wave technology is the most promising and the one EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) believes to be the most economical.

In the United States it is being tested in five states: Oahu, Hawaii; Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Old Orchard Beach, Cumberland County, Maine; Gardiner, Douglas County, Oregon; Ocean Beach, San Francisco County, California.

Three reasons are given to investors when asked why they should get involved in wave energy technology: It is “environmentally benign”, meaning it will have no effect on the environment; it will not be in anyone’s back yard; it is predictable.

Ocean wave power was first demonstrated on the “grid” in Aug. of 2004. Several companies are involved in patents for their inventions to harness this power. The neo-aerodynamic turbine is designed to collect energy from both kinetic and pneumatic energy. Kinetic energy is produced by motion, and pneumatic energy is produced by compression.

A gyroscopic flywheel that uses the oscillations of the movement of the waves was invented in 1979 and in 1982 was patented. A newer version is now ready for use, or soon will be.

Yet, the most interesting of the ocean wave power grabbers, is the Manchester Bobber. It’s an offshore device that uses up-and-down motion to generate power. The author of “Offshore Bobbing Device” likened it to a cork bobbing up and down. Manchester being Manchester, England, the place the author pointed out was also the place that was famous for its bobbins of another sort, sewing machine bobbins.

While no one knows exactly how the ocean will best serve the Earth environmentally, testing goes on. Ocean wave technology at present seems the most feasible; it still has to settle on which concept will best serve its purpose. Will it be the off-shore platform rigs for the devices that will be hoisted 65 feet in the air; or will it be the aqua buoy, or the wave buoy?

Tidal wave technology

The ebb and flow of tides are other ways power can be generated from the ocean. This can be done in three ways: Wave energy is created by the force of the moving waves (kinetic energy); tidal energy is only possible in areas where there are larger-than-normal differentials between high and low tides. At least 16 feet is necessary. This does not happen everywhere. At present, France supplies 240,000 homes with only one plant.

Ocean thermal energy: Energy is created by the difference between the top surface ocean water that is heated by the sun and below depth water. Where there are temperature differences of 38 degrees, thermal energy harvest is possible.

Whichever, online sites are afloat with ideas and imaginative ways and means of capturing the power of the ocean. It certainly is one moving force not to be taken lightly, and whether the present endeavors prove worthwhile or just ideas bobbling around, only time will tell.