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  (Source: New Australia)
Installers are fighting elemental risks to make marine energy a widespread reality

Atlantis Resources Corporation, a vertically integrated marine renewable power company, has built the world's largest tidal turbine and shipped it from Invergordon, Scotland to the European Marine Energy Centre off the coast of Orkney for testing. 

The AK-1000, a 130-ton, 73-foot tall metal tidal turbine with twin rotating blades, has taken Atlantis Resources Corp. a decade to complete and cost it $7.5 million. This massive turbine will act as an "underwater windmill," and is the largest installation ever planned. 

The AK-1000 will generate 1 megawatt of energy right away, which can power approximately 1,000 homes in Scotland. By 2013, the turbine is expected to generate 150 megawatts of power and then, by 2020, it will boost up  to 700 megawatts. This may look like a perfect situation, and while it is a progressive step toward new avenues in renewable energy, it isn't exactly risk-free.

Now that the AK-1000 has made the journey to the European Marine Energy Centre, installers now face element-related problems such as 50-foot waves and 11 degree temperatures in order to put the turbine in place and connect it to the electrical grid. The reason for these intense conditions is that areas with strong waves are the most fitting spots this kind of equipment. But while it's ideal for tidal turbines, it makes installation problematic, and the addition of maintenance problems has caused public utility companies like the California-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to turn away from plans to use tidal power, such as under the Golden Gate Bridge. 

In 2007, PG&E commissioned an engineering report for the Golden Gate Bridge project but soon lost interest because of high costs and unproven technology. The project is currently on hold. The United States government alone only has a handful of marine energy projects that are active, but most recent reports indicate that Ocean Renewable Power Company in Maine has just announced that they've successfully installed the "largest ocean energy power plant ever installed in U.S. waters." Europe, on the other hand, has a half-dozen that are operational with an additional 20 that are either pending or in development. 

Even though the use of tidal turbines can be risky and problematic, Cleantech analyst Federica Dalamel notes that marine energy is still in "its infancy" and that there are several technologies to consider in this category such as salinity gradient, thermal gradient, wave and tidal energies that are still evolving. There is a large amount of potential for marine energy, and according to Dalamel, if all four of these technologies became commercially viable, their combined energy would produce six times the world's energy consumption. 





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