Print 36 comment(s) - last by ppardee.. on Aug 23 at 9:16 PM

  (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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A Whale Approaches
By Jedi2155 on 8/18/2010 8:46:25 PM , Rating: 3
I wonder if these large scale installations of a simple two bladed tidal generator would be any danger to something like a whale. I could easily imagine a large creature traveling through the ocean not seeing the rotating blade as it moves and getting smacked by it severely damaging the turbine and seriously injuring or completely slicing through the animal in question.

I'm not sure how anything could survive being hit by a giant blade with a megawatt+ of power behind it.

RE: A Whale Approaches
By Jedi2155 on 8/18/2010 8:52:17 PM , Rating: 4
Looking into the article I stand corrected as the turbine design looks nothing like the pictures in this article. They are 59 feet in diameter spinning at a maximum 8 RPM (7.3 FPS or 5 MPH).

RE: A Whale Approaches
By Don Tonino on 8/19/2010 7:04:20 AM , Rating: 3
For that diameter and rotational speed the tip velocity is actually 24.7 ft/s or 16.8 mph (7.5 m/s or 27.1 km/h). The tip seems to have a maximum thickness around 150-200 mm so I wouldn't bet of it being so "environmental benign" if colliding into anything, but as long as it's not placed along a known migration path there shouldn't be too much of a danger for whales and the such.

RE: A Whale Approaches
By KaiserCSS on 8/18/2010 8:53:33 PM , Rating: 1
Well, I'm no marine biologist, but I'd venture to guess a whale would be able to see or sense the blade. In addition, from the looks of it, these generators will be placed relatively close to shores, an area whales normally don't venture towards unless they're beaching themselves.

Still, I would like to see some more information on the potential impact to coastal marine life. Placing these 'watermills' in sparsely inhabited areas would be great, especially if they can crank out as much energy as advertised.

RE: A Whale Approaches
By diggernash on 8/18/2010 8:55:43 PM , Rating: 5
Besides, 1 megawatt should be enough energy to power a small whale processing plant.

RE: A Whale Approaches
By sleepeeg3 on 8/18/2010 11:25:26 PM , Rating: 2
Mmm... sushi!

RE: A Whale Approaches
By lainofthewired on 8/19/2010 1:20:44 PM , Rating: 2
6 this man! XD

RE: A Whale Approaches
By marvdmartian on 8/19/10, Rating: 0
RE: A Whale Approaches
By omnicronx on 8/19/2010 10:29:14 AM , Rating: 1
Whales don't really use their eyes all that much, they can't even see the colour blue.. They use echolocation (kind of like sonar) to bounce sounds off objects to locate prey and other objects.

That being said, a moving turbine in the water is not something they would be used too, so who knows what kind of effect this would have on whales.

RE: A Whale Approaches
By Suntan on 8/19/2010 1:05:20 PM , Rating: 3
Whales don't really use their eyes all that much, they can't even see the colour blue.. They use echolocation (kind of like sonar) to bounce sounds off objects to locate prey and other objects.

Yes, whales have ninja honed senses and cat like reflexes...


By Phoque on 8/18/2010 9:18:09 PM , Rating: 4
This is so powerfully meaningless. I could also say that if we collected enough human's and other animal's farts and burn it into electricity centrals, we could also produce
six times the world's energy consumption

Some more details as to what percentage of that potential could we realistically hope to reach, in how much time and at what cost would be really interesting to appreciate the technology.

By nafhan on 8/19/2010 9:38:45 AM , Rating: 1
Also, what would the impact of removing that much energy from the ocean be on the ocean? Probably not good, especially near the coastline where the marine environment is most fragile and most of the energy extraction will be occurring.

By Spuke on 8/19/2010 3:13:20 PM , Rating: 3
Also, what would the impact of removing that much energy from the ocean be on the ocean?
Can I get some population control over here in aisle 7?

By ppardee on 8/23/2010 9:16:17 PM , Rating: 2
There is no way we can get energy from any source without causing a disruption to nature. Wind, solar, coal, gas, nuclear, wave, tidal, geothermal..... all remove that energy from the environment. Ironically, coal and natural gas are the least disruptive in that respect since the energy is fairly contained.

Once the energy is used by the consumer, however, it is put back into the environment in some form or another... we're just moving it about and transforming it.

planet and people
By beergardenbouncer on 8/19/2010 9:36:50 AM , Rating: 3
A lawyer friend, bought many acres of northern Michigan forest. As a 'green' investment he wants to clear cut the trees and put up wind turbines.

And soon mom and pop and little joey can take a Sunday drive in their electric car and be impressed by the forest of tall white whirlygigs spinning away (with a squeak squeak here and ka'chunk bang there).

All in the name of "more electricity", to power our "more mobiles". Why aren't we talking about less people?

RE: planet and people
By Denigrate on 8/19/2010 10:10:37 AM , Rating: 5
I agree about population control. You and your lawyer friend should not be able to pass your genetics on to the next generation. Can't fix stupid.

RE: planet and people
By kattanna on 8/19/10, Rating: 0
RE: planet and people
By Spuke on 8/19/2010 3:11:14 PM , Rating: 2
if you honestly believe the world needs fewer people how come you all never start with yourselves? no, its always something OTHERS should have to deal with.
Because they're "living right" and we aren't and need to be saved. Someone's got to tell the rest of us what to do otherwise we'll just pollute, spend, and fuck ourselves and the planet to death.

By Justin Time on 8/18/2010 8:19:46 PM , Rating: 2
I guess that I miss seeing it, but in what way are strong waves linked with tides ?

RE: Tidal
By Zok on 8/18/2010 10:27:19 PM , Rating: 2
Wave Power - the solution?
By Paj on 8/19/2010 7:45:42 AM , Rating: 2
I think wave power could be the best solution once technology matures. As the majority of the worlds population live near coasts, power plants could be sited close to major cities with minimal transmission loss. It is less dependant on the weather like wind or solar, avoids the problems of 'visual pollution' and NIMBYism that wind suffers from, and can feasibly be scaled up for baseload levels. You could easily avoid whale strikes and so on by enclosing them in protective caging, or fences - plus a whale could easily detect them with sonar.

However, it does have maintenance problems - seawater is quite corrosive. Im not sure a 'turbine' as such is the best solution either.

An excellent wave power system called CETO is being tested off the coast of Perth, Western Australia (where I grew up).

The advantage of this system is that its not a turbine based system - it uses flotation devices attached to a piston, thus has fewer moving parts, and poses less threat to marine life than a spinning turbine would. A huge plus is that the same process that generates the power is used to desalinate seawater - this fact alone could make it hugely competitive in hot/dry climates (like Australia).

RE: Wave Power - the solution?
By mkrech on 8/19/2010 1:48:48 PM , Rating: 2
OK, I'll wear my beliefs on my shirt sleeve. I am anti-green. But not because I like pollution or dislike energy conservation. Just the knee jerk reaction to support any green initiative that actually supports alternate agendas under the guise of the green banner.

It then comes down to a practical solution. I agree that this method looks much more practical than the turbine option. This is in fact a renewable and green energy source that I can support. Hopefully development of this technology will be able to produce a practical and safe solution that we all can agree upon.

Variability is still an issue.
By Amiga500 on 8/19/2010 8:16:50 AM , Rating: 2
There has been the Seagen (google it) project ongoing locally for quite a while now.

The load factors are still of the order of 50%. Not good enough.

However, the loads are wholly predictable, which is a major advantage compared to wind or wave approaches.

Only achieving a 50% load factor means half the time you'll need another plant, and the other half of the time that plant will be sitting idle. Not exactly efficient, is it?

RE: Variability is still an issue.
By DanNeely on 8/20/2010 4:19:57 PM , Rating: 2
You're right in that it wouldn't let us close any fossil fuel plants. I believe that the ramp up times for hte tidal generator would be slow enough that coal plants could follow them though allowing us to significantly cut the amount of emissions released. Even if they're too fast for coal/oil plants to respond to natural gas burning plants have much faster response curves.

This is much better than wind which due to the rapid variability and unpredictability of power generated means that for every MW of wind power on the grid utility companies have to burn (but not convert to electricity) about .65MW of natural gas so that they can switch alternate supplies in when the wind falters fast enough to avoid voltage sags.

By METALMORPHASIS on 8/19/2010 12:02:01 AM , Rating: 1
What next?
Pretty soon we all won't even be able to take a crap.

By phxfreddy on 8/19/2010 12:24:02 AM , Rating: 1
Lame-0 writer Ms Kaiser.

bad idea
By dgingeri on 8/19/10, Rating: -1
RE: bad idea
By DanNeely on 8/19/2010 9:49:49 AM , Rating: 2
citation for tapping tidal energy affecting tidal drag please?

I don't think it will have any effect. The tidal braking of our rotation is caused by the position of the tidal bulge relative to the moon's position. Since the turbines won't stop the tides from flowing in and out I don't think they could affect it.

In any even tidal braking is an extremely slow process. It's taken 4.5bn years to slow the planets rotation by ~18hours. An average rate of 1 second every 70,000 years. But because the rate of braking is reduced as the Earth's spin slows and the Moon moves farther away the rate of braking now is much lower than it was when the moon was first formed. Tidal forces fall off as 1 over r cubed. I think but am not sure that braking would be affected the same way as well.

RE: bad idea
By MrTeal on 8/19/2010 11:22:34 AM , Rating: 2
Right, and while I'm not super duper sure on the science, my enviro-paranoid gut feeling tells me that our using solar panels to harness light has to affect the sun, and could cause more sunspots and other bad things. Who knows what kind of bad stuff could happen?

The reason that our rotational rate is slowly is because some angular momentum is lost to heating caused be turbulent flows. What tidal power generators do is remove some of that energy that would normally just go to slightly heating the water.

RE: bad idea
By ZachDontScare on 8/19/2010 2:40:34 PM , Rating: 2
Solar power does trap energy here on Earth that otherwise would be reflected back into space. So if it was used enough, it'd warm the Earth.

RE: bad idea
By Spuke on 8/19/2010 3:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
Solar power does trap energy here on Earth that otherwise would be reflected back into space. So if it was used enough, it'd warm the Earth.

RE: bad idea
By Suntan on 8/19/2010 9:16:37 PM , Rating: 2
Uhhh... then what happens when 90% of the houses in the world put black colored asphalt shingles or slate tiles on their roofs?


RE: bad idea
By knutjb on 8/20/2010 6:27:09 AM , Rating: 2
And Energy Secretary Stephen Chu proposed painting all roofs white.

To me what signifies an Environmental Wacko is one who obsesses over clean energy and how we must change our ways to their demands. Ironically their demand for clean energy requires: oil to manufacture, cost more money to manufacture than they save or produce, in the effort to not burn and produce CO2 kills birds and fish or obstructs the view, are not able to keep up with societies growth. To which they demand reductions in the population, other than themselves of course, and hate war because people die.

Chu, as smart as he is supposed to be, can't see the forest through the trees.

Another green argument is that we must transition to clean energies the same way we stopped using whale oil. The problem with that is kerosene was cheaper than whale oil and became cheaper as time went on. All current green power sources do not follow this necessary economic pattern.

I do want cheap clean energy, clean air, and clean water. Greenies need to take a dose of reality that no source is a magic bullet and that there will never be such. They cannot have it all their way all the time, it is far too dangerous. Just look at any major black out and the ensuing chaos.

If this works and is cost effective, great, if not move on.

RE: bad idea
By mkrech on 8/19/2010 1:36:26 PM , Rating: 2
Reality calling... we've missed you!

uh, look up the word "scale" in the dictionary sometime.

And for a metaphor, think of all those disappearing beaches due to the use of sand in concrete.

RE: bad idea
By ZachDontScare on 8/19/2010 2:43:50 PM , Rating: 2
I think some people need to learn how to detect a subtle sense of humor.

RE: bad idea
By mkrech on 8/19/2010 4:44:41 PM , Rating: 2

...but how many actual arguments for environmentalism are at this level of intelligence. With anything related to the green religion, the line between subtle humor and actual attempt at an argument is usually a very blurry line.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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