The World Energy Council estimates that wave and tidal energy has the potential to provide 10% of the world’s electricity. However, wave and tidal energy research has yet to deliver a reliable, sustainable, utility scale power system. The public and private sectors around the world are still investing millions of dollars in research to try and harness the enormous power potential of our oceans.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is developing a pilot, grid-connected marine test facility off the coast of Newport, Oregon. The pilot project is forecast to commence operation in 2021. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island and the Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative recently started testing a tidal turbine in the Cape Cod canal. Ocean Renewable Power Company in Portland, Maine is testing a pilot project in Cobscook Bay, Maine. Verdant Power is also testing a pilot project in the East River of New York.
In 2017, Atlantis Resources launched a tidal energy pilot project off the northern coast of Scotland. The project’s goal is to generate 200 MW of electricity from 269 underwater turbines, which could provide electricity to over 150,000 homes. Resolute Marine Energy, headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts is working with the island nation of Cape Verde in Africa to develop a water desalination system powered by wave energy. Pilot wave, tidal and current research projects are also underway in Australia, France, Indonesia, Japan and Spain.
Why, after fifty years of research has no one developed a successful wave or tidal energy pilot project that can deliver utility scale power? One reason is the frequency and intensity of the waves and tides around the world vary significantly. The solutions to harness wave and tidal energy are even more diverse than marine environments.
In principle, I support government research on renewable energy. In my opinion, the priority should be to move away from fossil fuels to proven renewable energy as quickly as possible. Therefore, our government’s financial priority should be to support installation of proven renewable energy power projects, such as hydropower, wind, solar and geothermal.