When Green Energy is Blue Energy: Power From the Sea
Before long it will be good to hear that there’s a giant Anaconda nearby: “Anaconda” is the name for one of the many technologies that promise to tap the ocean’s unlimited power.
Oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, which means they intercept almost three-quarters of all incoming solar energy. In addition to that huge reservoir of thermal energy, trillions of tons of sea water are stirred into motion by gravity, wind, and temperature and density differentials; an almost literally incalculable amount of kinetic energy is stored in their endless movement. Tapping even a tiny percentage of that thermal and kinetic energy could solve humankind’s power problems many times over.
- The energy is close to where we need it. 60 percent of the human population lives within 36 miles (60 km) of a seacoast. Similarly, a great deal of our industry is located near the sea.
- The energy is inexhaustible. The sources of oceanic energy—sunlight, and the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun—will never be used up.
- The energy has zero emissions. Some alternative energy sources—such as biofuel—still emit CO2. But ocean energy is like wind or solar power in that it emits nothing: no carbon dioxide or monoxide, no particulates, nothing.
- Ocean energy could be used to produce useful materials from the sea. The power could be used on-site to desalinate sea water, providing fresh water for thirsty populations. It could also be used to crack H2O into its constituent H and O—releasing oxygen while creating hydrogen to power fuel cells. This would let ocean power drive our cars, too.
- Properly sited ocean power installations could have other local beneficial effects. Some designs could serve as breakwaters, protecting fragile coastlines; others could serve as artificial reefs, providing homes for marine organisms.
What’s In It For Home Heating Oil Users?
At first blush, the impact of ocean power on a home heating oil user would seem to be small. In the U.S., little electricity is generated by oil; new sources of electricity save relatively little oil.