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Marine energy

The pull of the tides and the strength of the waves, these natural phenomena are synonymous with freedom and power. We can draw an exponential quantity of zero emissions energy from them. The history of the youngest renewable energy source has yet to be written.

About marine energy

A power yet to be explored

Earth is the blue planet. Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with ocean and sea water. Using the hidden power of such an abundant natural resource is the greatest challenge of the Third Millennium.

Currently, marine energy is an enormous untapped reserve with inexhaustible potential. If we could take full advantage of ocean and sea power, all of the energy consumption forecast by the International Energy Agency (IEA) by 2035 would already be covered. Currently, however, this potential has limitations in terms of cost and the replicability of required technologies.

Seas and oceans have just begun to play a role on the renewable energy stage. The IRENA 2019 report confers 500 MW of installed capacity on marine energy, still a far cry from its “elder siblings”. According to IEA’s Ocean Energy System 2014 and Ocean Energy Europe 2016, by 2050 marine energy will have spread mainly throughout Europe, creating an estimated 40,000 jobs and providing up to 100 GW on the Continent, the equivalent of 10% of electricity consumption. 

The history of marine energy

The youngest renewable energy

Tide mills on beaches or in ports

In Venice, Italy and the port of Dover, England, the first tide mills appear next to windmills and water mills well before the origin of the tides is revealed by Newton, Laplace and Poincarè’s scientific theories. In these mills, a tank fills at high tide and empties at low tide, which activates the blades. 

The relationship between tides and architecture

The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France has the most spectacular tides in Europe. An abbey built and restructured between the X and XVI centuries stands in front of the bay connected by a strip of land. At high tide, the strip is covered and the rock on which it stands becomes an island. Mills powered by the tides proliferate along France’s northern coast.

Mechanical energy from the waves

At the end of the seventeen hundreds, the French engineer and physicist Pierre Simon Girard and his son patent the first device to draw power from swells and convert it into mechanical energy used to help work in the fields. 

Light from sea

The French inventor Bochaux-Praceique builds a tool powered by water oscillation to light his home in Royan near Bordeaux. 

Exploiting the oscillation of the waves

Japanese ex-naval commander Yoshio Masuda develops a signal buoy powered by an air turbine. The turbine is in a duct where air is sucked in and compressed by the oscillation of the waves. The movement triggers the rotation of the turbine, which powers an electric generator

A tidal power station

Rance Tidal Power Station is the world’s first tidal stream power station. A long dam crosses the Rance River estuary, where water flows into the ocean through 24 collectors equipped with Kaplan turbines. 

The electric duck

Stephen Salter builds the “Salter’s duck”, a device that transforms wave power into electricity. Wave impact rotates inner gyroscopes and a generator converts the rotation into electricity. During small-scale experiments, it harnesses and converts 90% of marine energy into electricity.

Ocean heat

In Nauru, Japan, an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant that uses thermal energy generated by temperature differences between the ocean’s surface and its depths sets the first record of generated energy: 120 watts, 90 of which are used to power businesses and a school. 

A boost from the European Union

The European Union adds the development of marine energy to its European Community program goals and identifies around 100 sites suited to the purpose. 

A hydraulic turbine for the Strait of Messina

Kobold plant is built by the Italian company Ponte di Archimede 200 meters off the coast of the Strait of Messina, one of the most promising sites of those identified by the European Union. It converts the kinetic energy produced by marine currents into high-yield rotary mechanical energy.

Scotland, a marine energy pioneer

As part of the MyGen program, Scotland launches the world’s largest project to install a series of 1.5 MW turbines to draw energy from marine currents.

Electricity from the waves…

The first series of wave power machines is connected to the electric grid as part of the Perth Wave Energy Project, realized in Carnegie, Australia. 

… and from the tides

The first series of tidal power machines is connected to the electric grid in Scotland by the Nova Innovation company, who installs 100 kW M100 turbines at Buemull Sound. 

How marine energy works

Two water ways

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Marine power generation systems are strongly bound to technological development. When innovation reaches the right technical and commercial maturity levels, marine energy production will become widespread and extremely advantageous.

Currently, the greatest possibilities to exploit the resource, and the most encouraging prospects from a technological point of view, are Wave Energy and Tidal Stream Energy.

Wave energy is caused by wind blowing across the water, creating periodic surface movement, i.e. waves. Tidal stream energy uses the horizontal water currents caused by vertical variations in the level of water mass, i.e. tides.

Wave Energy

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Tidal Stream

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Strong points of marine energy

An ocean of opportunities

Predictable and calculable

Waves and tides are always present, and their variations are quantifiable for the most part. Calculations on marine energy production are much more accurate.

Many technologies

The large variety of technologies for generating marine energy make it highly adaptable.

Near usage sites

Port and coastal cities are very close to the source and can quickly enjoy the benefits of renewable energy. 

Did you know?

From the ocean floor to the roof of a building

One of the world’s largest potential tidal stream energy sources, as well as the location of the world’s highest tides, is located in the idyllic landscape of Canada’s Bay of Fundy.

Over 6 hours, twice a day, 160 billion tons of water flow in and out of the mouth of the bay. The result is a monumental increase in sea level: 16 meters, the equivalent of a five-story building constructed by the power of the ocean.

This colossal wall of water converges in a long natural bay along the over 300km of Atlantic Ocean coast that separate the peninsula of Nova Scotia from the province of New Brunswick in eastern Canada. The tides are the largest on record worldwide and have a notable dynamic effect on the floor and shores of the bay.

Discover other renewables energies

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