Friday, September 28, 2012
Tidal Energy Is Finally A Reality In The U.S.
The largest amount of energy from renewable sources has traditionally been hydroelectric (in blue on the graph) -- and that is still the case. No other renewable source even comes close. Since the late 1980's biomass energy (in yellow) has been growing, and since the late 1990's wind energy (in green) has also assumed a larger share and still growing share of energy production. The fourth source with statistically significant production of energy is geothermal (in red). There is one more energy group (barely visible in pink at the upper right-hand part of the graph). It is composed of solar/wave/tidal energy production.
We have all heard about the promise of solar energy. Currently, there is much research being done on it -- trying to develop cost-effective solar panels to generate energy. But one source of energy production that most Americans haven't heard much about is tidal energy -- and it may be the most reliable of the renewable energy sources. Rivers can dry up, the sun can be hidden by clouds, and the wind doesn't blow 365 days a year (even in the windiest areas). But the tides are always present and moving, and that tidal movement can be tapped to produce energy.
Until recently in the western hemisphere, this has just been theory. But it is now a reality. On September 13th, electricity began flowing from a ocean turbine powered by the tides. The feat was accomplished by the Ocean Renewable Power Company in the state of Maine. So far, there is only a single turbine and the amount of electricity is just a trickle -- about 180 kilowatts (or enough energy to power about 25 to 30 homes). But the company is to install more turbines, and has contracted with the Main Public Utilities Commission to produce 5 megawatts (a megawatt is 1000 kilowatts).
This is just a small beginning, but it is one with a lot of potential in this country (a country with thousands of miles of coastline). Tidal energy is unlikely to become the nation's dominant source of renewable energy, but it could one day produce a significant chunk of the nation's energy. If you'd like to read more about Maine's accomplishment, you can go to the blog Thurman's Soapbox.