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Marine Renewables In the United States
At the Fourth Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference, A Budding Industry Shares Information on its Progress

By Maggie L. Merrill
Marine Marketing Services
Hingham, Massachusetts

Marine renewable energy, ocean renewable energy, marine hydrokinetic energy (MHK)—whatever you call it, it is harnessing energy from ocean and river currents, tides, waves and thermal differences. Marine energy could be considered the sleeping giant in the renewable energy space. For example, conservative estimates of U.S. wave power potential is thought to be 2,100 terawatt-hours per year. Some experts have stated that if wave devices can be engineered to harness just 20 percent of that power at 50 percent efficiency, that would match the U.S. consumption of conventional hydropower in 2003.

During April's Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference (GMREC) in Washington, D.C., representatives from 19 countries and numerous companies shared snapshots on the progress of marine renewable energy.

Columbia Power Technologies (Corvallis, Oregon) recently deployed its SeaRay wave buoy off the coast of Seattle, Washington.

Test Facilities and Government Support
At GMREC, all agreed government funding for research and development would be crucial for attracting private investment. Government funds are needed to reduce costs and improve performance of renewable energy devices. One way to do this is to establish test sites around the country, allowing developers to deploy their gear at different stages.

Responding to industry, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Water Power Program is supporting three open-water testing sites at Florida Atlantic University, Oregon State University/University of Washington and at the University of Hawaii.

The Stromness, Scotland-based European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) is the gold standard in terms of providing industry with a prepermitted, fully wired and supported test site. The list of devices being tested there includes Scotrenewables (Stromness), Atlantis Resources Corp. (London, England), Hammerfest Strøm (Hammerfest, Norway), Aquamarine Power (Edinburgh, Scotland), Pelamis Wave Power (Edinburgh) and Wello Oy (Espoo, Finland). To qualify to test a device at EMEC, it needs to have been subjected to a myriad of trials (and likely failures).

Clearly the MHK industry in the United Kingdom is much further along than the U.S. industry. One reason for this head start was that the U.K. set clear national renewable energy targets that specify MHK in the mix. Additionally, the U.K. established an accelerated regulatory process and have funded robust test sites, environmental research and device innovation.

Company CEO Panel
In a brief talk at GMREC, Peter Fraenkel, technical director of Marine Current Turbines Ltd. (Bristol, England), provided an update on its SeaGen tidal turbine that has been operating since June 2008 in the Stranford Narrows in Scotland. Currently the double-turbine system, which can be submerged for full-flow operations and raised to the surface for maintenance, is generating 1.2 megawatts into the grid, enough to power up to 1,500 homes. The next phase of operations will be to install seven double-turbine rigs two miles offshore in Anglesey Skerries in Wales. These would generate 10 megawatt-hours per tide and provide enough power for 6,000 homes. To continue this article please click here.

Maggie L. Merrill provides outreach, marketing and strategic communications services to ocean technology firms and ocean energy developers. She has organized several ocean energy industry events, including the Global Marine Renewable Energy conferences and the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center's stakeholder and technical conferences.

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