Marine energy has taken a back seat to its more well-developed and well-funded rival, wind. That's about to change. Water has several advantages over wind power: marine current turbines (essentially underwater windmills) tend to be smaller and less costly to produce than their terra firma brethren, and wave energy and tidal flows can be predicted with much greater accuracy than wind speeds. The power contained in accessible coastal currents is estimated at about 4,000 TW, or about a quarter of the electricity demand of the entire world. Some recent developments have been especially encouraging. The first 5 projects here have been shortlisted as candidates for the Severn River between England and Wales.


Location: Severn River. Would stretch from Lavernock Point (Wales) to Brean Down (Somerset).
Cost: 19.6-22.2 billion pounds
Energy produced: 8 GW
Feasibility: Barrages barricade the entire estuary from coast to coast, which makes this the most ambitious and costly of the proposals to generate power from damming the Severn River. Upside? It could generate 5% of the UK's electricity. Environmental groups, though, have met the proposal with intense opposition, claiming that it would adversely affect marine habitats and coastal homeowners.


Location: Severn River. Further upstream from Cardiff-Weston; just south of the Severn road crossing.
Cost: 2.9-3.5 billion pounds
Energy produced: 1 GW
Feasibility: This barrage would be less costly and intrusive than the Cardiff-Weston, but would only cover about 1% of Britain's electricity needs--the equivalent of one coal-fired power plant. It could also have a smaller ecological footprint than most of the other options.

Name of Project: Beachley Barrage
Location: Severn River, just above the Wye River. Further upstream from Cardiff-Weston and Shoots Barrages.
Cost: 2.1-2.5 billion pounds
Energy produced: 625 MW
Feasibility: The least intrusive barrage project also produces the smallest amount of energy. Low construction costs make it less risky to build.

Name of Project: Bridgwater Bay Lagoon
Location: Impoundment on the English shore of the estuary between Hinkley Point and Weston-Super-Mare.
Cost: 3.4-4.1 billion pounds
Energy produced: 1.36 GW
Feasibility: Lagoons pose less of a threat to wildlife, although environmental groups claim that onshore lagoons (like the two on this list) do more harm than offshore types. One advantage is that the two lagoon projects could operate in combination with each other or one of the smaller barrage projects.

Name of Project: Fleming Lagoon
Location: Impoundment on the Welsh shore of the Estuary between Newport and the Severn road crossing.
Cost: 4.1-4.9 billion pounds
Energy produced: 1.36 GW
Feasibility: This project is more costly than the Bridgwater Bay lagoon, but it's possible that they could both be chosen.

Name of Project: South Korea Turbine Field
Location: The Wando Hoenggan waterway, South Korea
Cost: 500 million pounds
Energy produced: 300 MW
Feasibility: This turbine field is a collaboration between Britain's Lunar Energy and the Korean Midland Power Company. It is projected to power 200,000 homes when complete in 2015. A 1 MW pilot turbine will go online this March.

Name of Project: Pentland Firth Turbine Field
Location: Pentland Firth, off the northern coast of Scotland.
Cost: Would initially be in the tens of millions of dollars for the first two 10 MW pilot fields, but it would most likely balloon into the billions as it scales up.
Energy produced: The center is expected to be generating 30MW by 2011, and 150MW by 2013. It is expected to reach a capacity of 700 MW by 2020.
Feasibility: Pentland Firth is one of the most promising areas for marine turbine installations because of its unusually strong current. The Singapore-based Atlantis Resources announced an alliance with sustainable data center specialist Internet Villages International (IVI) to power the company's off-grid data centre in the region. The data center will require 150 MW to operate, and once that threshold is reached excess energy would be sold back to the grid.

Name of Project: Pelamis Wave Power Project
Location: Agucadoura, off the northern coast of Portugal.
Cost: 9 million Euros for the initial phase.
Energy produced: 2.25 MW.
Feasibility: The installation of three Pelamis Wave Energy Converters is one of the first commercial and fully operational marine energy installations in the world. Composed of long cylinders connected by hinged joints, this method is a relative newcomer. As the waves move the joints, high-pressure fluid is jammed through hydraulic motors, which drive electrical generators. There are already plans for expansion, assuming the initial phase is successful, that include the installation of 25 more converters, bringing total capacity to 21 MW.

Name of Project: VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibrations Aquatic Clean Energy)
Location: A prototype is currently operating in the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory at the University of Michigan, and the first deployment into a real waterway is scheduled for Detroit in 2010.
Cost: $3,000/KW installed.
Energy produced: Initial prototypes will only be 2 or 3 KW, but this project merits inclusion because of its scalability and potential to operate without disturbing marine habitats.
Feasibility: VIVACE is still in the R&D phase, but looks extremely promising. It turns a force that has plagued structures like offshore drilling platforms--vortex-induced vibrations--into one that can generate marine energy at lower speeds than other harvesting methods. Turbines generally require water movement of 5 to 6 knots to operate efficiently, but most ocean and river movements are in the 2-3 knot range. Because VIVACE is efficient at lower speeds, it could be deployed almost anywhere. Dr. Michael Bernitsas, an ocean engineer, came up with the idea after spending time on offshore drilling platforms trying to suppress vortex-induced vibrations. Vortex Hydro Energy, the company Bernitsas set up to back his project, will search for private VC funding after a successful installation of his prototype.

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9 Wave Power Projects That Could Save the Planet

Marine energy has taken a back seat to its more well-funded rival, wind. That's about to change. Water has several advantages over wind power: marine current turbines (essentially underwater windmills) are smaller and less costly to produce and tidal flows can be predicted with greater accuracy. The power contained in coastal currents is estimated at about a quarter of the electricity demand of the entire world.

Marine energy has taken a back seat to its more well-developed and well-funded rival, wind. That's about to change. Water has several advantages over wind power: marine current turbines (essentially underwater windmills) tend to be smaller and less costly to produce than their terra firma brethren, and wave energy and tidal flows can be predicted with much greater accuracy than wind speeds. The power contained in accessible coastal currents is estimated at about 4,000 TW, or about a quarter of the electricity demand of the entire world. Some recent developments have been especially encouraging. The first 5 projects here have been shortlisted as candidates for the Severn River between England and Wales.

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