Image courtesy of FAU
As solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies increasingly become seen as viable alternatives to coal- and fossil fuel-based ones, some scientists are already looking beyond recent breakthroughs in these areas to the vast, largely untapped potential offered by the world's oceans. This follows a recent announcement by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne clearing the way for further research and investment into wind, wave and tidal technologies on the U.S.'s Outer Continental Shelf.
Rick Driscoll, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology (CEOET), and his colleagues are hard at work developing a device that could allow his state to procure up to a third of its energy needs by tapping into the Gulf Stream's energy-dense waters. A field of underwater turbines moored 1,000 ft below the surface in the center of the Gulf Stream could - by drawing from its 8 billion gallons per minute flow rate - provide as much energy as several nuclear plants.
Image courtesy of NPR's Greg Allen
Driscoll and his colleagues plan on testing out a small prototype turbine early next year, after which - if things work out as anticipated - they will deploy several full-sized ones. During their trial period, they plan on addressing two potential issues: the so-called "Cuisinart effect" (his term) - which occurs when fish get caught and chopped up by the whirring turbines - and whether the turbines will impact the Gulf Stream's power and flow. While he doesn't believe either is likely to happen, Driscoll emphasizes that they remain possibilities that need to be monitored.
The big energy pay-off, however, may yet lie in another source that has caught Driscoll's eye - ocean thermal energy, which used to produce electricity by tapping into the temperature difference between cold deep water and warm surface water. "That ocean thermal resource is probably the largest renewable energy source available anywhere," he said.
Via ::NPR: Harnessing the Power of the Gulf Stream (radio program)