Testing the Waters with Tidal Energy
December 6, 2010
*This story talks about the Ocean Renewable Power Company and its tidal turbine project in Cook Inlet.
By Bruce Dorminey and The Daily Climate in Scientific American: For eons, powerful tides have raged through Puget Sound, ripping along at 11 feet per second at their peak, predictable as the phases of the moon.
Three years from now, a local utility hopes to begin converting a portion of that raw energy to electricity, part of a growing effort to harness the tides to power homes and businesses miles from the smell of salt air.
The Snohomish County Public Utility District’s pilot project is small – two turbines with 500 kilowatts of total capacity and an average output of 50 kilowatts – hardly a panacea for all that ails the United States’ energy portfolio. But tidal power is garnering increasing attention as a niche supplier of renewable alternative energy in Washington, Maine and Alaska. The tides, some say, have the potential to light five percent of the nation’s homes – nearly nine gigawatts of generating power.
And with wind and solar increasingly seen as viable commercial energy alternatives in the United States, investors and public utilities also seem more willing to literally test tidal energy’s waters.
“There is a realization that a diversified suite of renewable energy resources will displace fossil fuel,” said Monty Worthington, who is directing a tidal energy project in Alaska for the Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. “To establish a place in the emerging marine renewable market, the time for [U.S.] investment is now.”