Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy as Clean Energy

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"[marine and hydrokinetic power]. . .could conservatively yield a total of 51GW of extractable energy, equivalent to 34 coal-fired power plants."

The marine energy industry is at a relatively early stage of development and maturity when compared to other renewable energy technologies, but the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) will help speed deployment of the technologies, according to testimony before a federal subcommittee.

The global marine and hydrokinetic energy industry has less than six small commercial projects, Jacques Beaudry-Losique told the House Science & Technology Subcommittee on Energy & Environment during his remarks on Marine & Hydrokinetic Energy Technology: Finding the Path to Commercialization.

There is only one operating marine facility in the U.S. (a river hydrokinetic project in Minnesota) so much of the work being funded through DoE is focused on evaluating the size, location and specific characteristics of offshore ocean and river energy resources, he explained. This includes establishing baseline cost, performance and reliability data for a variety of devices and assessing environmental impacts.

Marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies (including waves, tide currents, oceans and rivers, and the thermal gradients present in equatorial oceans) have significant potential to contribute to the nation's future supply of clean, cost-effective renewable energy.

In a 2007 assessment of waterpower potential, the Electric Power Research Institute indicated that marine and hydrokinetic power (excluding ocean thermal) could provide 23GW of capacity by 2025 and 100GW by 2050. In a 2009 study, EPRI and other groups concluded that resources could conservatively yield a total of 51GW of extractable energy, equivalent to 34 coal-fired power plants.

DoE is developing predictive cost and performance models to assess the near- and mid-term economic potential for developing marine and hydrokinetic resources, Beaudry-Losique told the congressmen. "Wave energy currently represents the largest sector of the marine and hydrokinetic industry both nationally and globally; the U.S. has experienced significant growth in the number of wave technology developers in the last decade, and there are now more than a dozen operating throughout the country."

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