Feature Report: Ocean Energy

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Ocean Current Energy

Ocean current energy can be harnessed using underwater turbines, also known as tidal turbines, to generate power. This technology has potential in many regions around the world. However, projects are still in the experimental stages. 

A tidal turbine being tested off Bénodet in Brittany, France. SABELLA / Y.GLADU

The Potential of Underwater Turbines

The movement of the oceans — partly caused by the tides — is a significant motive force. While the speed is relatively low (10 to 20 kilometers an hour), the key to recovering energy from currents is the flow and density of the moving water compared to the air.

Tapping one-thousandth of the Gulf Stream’s potential could in theory cover a third of Florida’s power needs.

In Europe, the potential of underwater turbines is estimated at 18 to 35 TWh per year, or about 8% of the annual energy consumption in French homes. The United Kingdom, France and Norway are the countries that are best placed to benefit from this potential.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Ocean current energy is steady and inexhaustible. Once the turbines have been installed, no direct greenhouse gas (ghg) Gas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... emissions are generated. However, it has several disadvantages:

Ongoing Experiments

Experiments are currently focusing on the use of underwater turbines, large propellers or turbines tethered in arrays to the seabed or floating mid-water. A direct current cable carries the electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... to an onshoreRefers to land-based oil exploration and production operations, as in "onshore seismic data acquisition" or "onshore drilling". transformer station connected to the powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... grid.


hydrolienne EN

Demonstration models are currently being developed, including in Norway, Scotland and Northern Ireland.



(1) Inter-Mines Study - p51 (french only)

(2) Paimpol-Bréhat Project - EDF (french only)

(3) Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy (SNMREC)