Every day, enough water flows down through rivers and streams to power tons of millions of homes. With the era of big dams halted by the lack of suitable sites as much as environmental concerns, the time for hydrokinetic energy may just be dawning. The ideas of using turbines, or other mechanical devices, to capture the energy of moving water are not a new one. Yet the technology for such hydrokinetic energy has met serious resistance from conditions below the surface.
We build ordinary windmills to extract useful power from wind energy. We put turbines in rivers (usually accompanied by dams) to extract useful power from downhill water flow. The second is more "energy intensive" than the first, which is why we all know that dams are great sources of electrical power, while electric-generator windmills spent decades in the economic doldrums (return on investment --ROI-- is relatively tiny, and only recently proved viable on a large scale).
Anyway, putting the equivalent of a windmill in a steady ocean current, say the Gulf Stream, should have an automatically-viable ROI that is intermediate between windmills and ordinary hydropower. This is because water is something like a thousand times denser than air, so a volume of flowing water contains a thousand times the energy of an equal volume of equally-flowing air.
The ocean has different currents at different depths. Near the seafloor underneath the Gulf Stream is another current going the opposite direction. If true, then we can build towers on the seafloor, just like ordinary windmills, to extract power. Being so deep will protect them from ships, and most sea life is found at other depths, so they won't be bothered. Also, another thing that protects sea life is the fact that underwater windmills will have a slow rotation rate, due to that same greater density of water over air. This means we can also put windmills in the rich-life upper ocean currents; animals will have time to dodge the blades.
We can divide renewable energy sources into two main categories: traditional renewable energy sources like biomass and large hydropower installations, and the "new renewable energy sources" like solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, etc. Renewable energy sources provide 18% of overall world energy , but most of this energy is energy from traditional use of biomass for cooking and heating - 13 of 18%. In large hydropower installations is another three percent. So, when we exclude conventional biomass and large hydropower installations it is easy to calculate that so called "new renewable energy sources" produce only 2.4% of overall world energy. 1.3% are water heating solutions, 0.8% are different power generation methods, and 0.3% are biofuels. In the future this portion should be significantly increased because the availability of non-renewable sources is decreasing with time, and their damaging influence has significantly increased in the last couple of decades. Sun delivers 15 thousand times more energy to Earth than humanity really needs in this stage, but despite this some people on Earth are still freezing. This fact shows us that we should exploit renewable sources much more and that we do not have to worry about the energy after fossil fuels cease to exist
Tidal stream turbines are often described as underwater windmills. They are driven by the kinetic energy of moving water in a similar way that wind turbines use moving air. The generator is placed into a marine current that typically results when water being moved by tidal forces comes up against, or moves around, an obstacle or through a constriction such as a passage between two masses of land. There are sufficient numbers of such fast-flowing underwater currents around the world to make this form of marine renewable energy worth pursuing.
Tidal flows have the advantage of being as predictable as the tides that cause them; both in terms of timing and in judging their maximum velocity. This long-term predictability helps greatly in electricity generation, enabling efficient grid management. The tidal turbine is bolted to the floor of the Kvalsund channel and is connected to the nearby town of Hammerfest’s power grid on September 20th. This is the first time in the world that electricity directly from a tidal current has been feed into a power grid. The gravitational tug of the moon produces a swift tidal current there that cause though the channel at about 8 feet (2.5 meters) per second and spins the 33-foot (10 meters) long blades of the turbine. The blades automatically turn and rotate at a pace of seven revolutions per minute, which is sufficient to produce 700,000 kilowatt hours of non-polluting energy per year- enough to power about 35 Norwegian homes (70 U.S homes).
Underwater turbines operate on the same principles that wind turbines use; a flow of fluid moves a set of blades creating mechanical energy which is then converted to electrical energy. They are equally troublesome for environmentalists, as wind turbines interrupt bird flights just as water turbines can disturb underwater life. One advantage water turbines enjoy over other sources of renewable energy is a predictable tide table. MCT's ocean energy device works on the same principles as a windmill, where large underwater rotors, shaped like propellers, are driven by the huge mass of flowing water to be found at certain places in the sea. The technology consists of rotors mounted on steel piles (tubular steel columns) set into a socket drilled in the seabed. The rotors are driven by the flow of water in much the same way that windmill rotors are driven by the wind, the main difference being that water is more than 800 times as dense as air, so quite slow velocities in water will generate significant amounts of power. The energy generated, being derived from tides has the added significant advantage of being predictable.
Ocean energy can play a significant role in our nation’s renewable energy portfolio. With the right support, the ocean energy industry can be competitive internationally. With the right encouragement, ocean renewable energy technologies can help us reduce our reliance on foreign oil – fossil fuels, in general – and provide clean energy alternatives to conventional power generating systems. And with the right public awareness, our coastline communities can use ocean renewables as a springboard for coastal planning that reflects the principles of marine biodiversity.
In conclusion, we believe that the intense and predictable marine current resource offers the possibility of clean energy at a cost that will ultimately be competitive not only with the other renewables, but in the long run we believe we can compete head on with most forms of fossil fuelled power generation at present-day costs. We think that, given appropriate government support to help the technology through its early and immature stages, it can play a significant role in producing clean energy.
Tidal energy has potential to become a viable option for large scale, base load generation in Scotland. Tidal Streams are the most attractive method, having reduced environmental and ecological impacts and being cheaper and quicker installed.
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