Feature Report: Ocean Energy

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The Different Forms of Ocean Energy

Renewable ocean energy is categorized based on which properties of the ocean are used, such as motion, heat or salinity.

The Different Forms of Ocean Energy
A tidal turbine is tested in Brest before being installed: one of the most advanced marine technologies. © FRED TANNEAU / AFP

Excluding offshoreRefers to sea-based oil exploration and production operations, as in "offshore license" or "offshore drilling". wind energy, ocean energies are categorized as:

These forms of energy have undeniable advantages. They are abundant, constant and predictable and can be harnessed in many different regions around the world. Some countries have started experimenting and some facilities are already generating power on a commercial scale1.

Research Avenues for Ocean Energy Sources

The sheer scale of the oceans means that potential production could in theory reach 100,000 to 150,000 TWh a year. In comparison, the world's current power generation capacity stands at 22,000 TWh2.

However, this calculation is purely theoretical as the investments required — which are still very significant — and the uncertainty of the marine environment must be taken into consideration. Commercial-scale installations come with several risks: corrosionThe gradual degradation of a material by a physical or physicochemical reaction... of materials due to the salinity of seawater and microorganisms, offshore maintenance difficulties, the environmental impactAny change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from human activity... on landscapes, the marine environment, and competition in these areas from other marine activities such as fishing.

A drop in production costs is also a prerequisite for the growth of ocean energies, even though turbines and wave energy converters are already being developed at lower costs than those seen in early days of wind energyEnergy derived from the wind. Wind power involves converting the kinetic energy of moving air (wind) into electricity..

 

Sources:

(1) IFREMER and French Ministry of Sustainable Development  (French only)

(2) Inter-Mines (French only)