August 12, 2009

The Constant Tide Is Promising Energy Source

The wind does not always blow, and the sun does not always shine. So they're considered "fickle" energy sources.

But ocean tides are constant and dependable--twice a day, like clockwork.

Underwater turbines to generate power sure sound promising. They are out of sight too, so those wind farm skeptics who worry about their pristine views can't complain. But this source of power is still in its infancy. There are only five or so test sites worldwide, and they receive only a small amount of the funding needed for research.

There's a new pilot program in Puget Sound run by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, a partnership between the University of Washington and Oregon State University. If it works, dozens of turbines lining the ocean floor are in the future.

I read about a test program in the East River a few years ago. After a few failed attempts, a test aluminum alloy turbine was installed at the bottom of this river--the first of 300 which New York city hopes to install in the waterway. Unlike the typical river which flows in a constant direction, the East River is a tidal straight with strong, fluctuating currents which allow for more efficient power generation. Once in place, the system could provide electricity to 10,000 households.

The media has provided very little info, but you can follow its status at