Wave Power

Another way to harness water energy is by using ocean waves. Unlike tidal energy technology, wave energy technology is still mostly in the development phase. Thus, "ocean-power systems now come in a staggering array of shapes, sizes and configurations," according to science reporter Sandi Doughton.4 For example, one wave energy system design involves a chamber open to the waves with a hole containing a turbine in the top. As the water in the chamber rises, air is forced out through the hole, turning the turbine. Another method involves a long, hinged tube filled with fluid. The tube is placed in the ocean, and the waves bend it back and forth, pumping out the fluid, which can then power generators. Scientists and engineers are still researching and testing to determine which, if any, of these designs will work. For instance, a wave energy buoy designed by a company called Finavera "sank unexpectedly during a test run" off the Pacific Coast, according to Seattle Times staff reporter Michelle Ma.5 After other hold ups and difficulties, Finavera decided to scrap its wave energy project altogether and focus instead on wind energy.

Wave energy may have some environmental impacts. There are concerns that generators may harm marine habitats, and that there will be "conflict with other sea space users, such as commercial shipping and recreational boating."6 For example, scientists are concerned that a planned wave energy generating station off the coast of Scotland may be a danger to whales, dolphins, and seals, which may "be unable to detect the underwater turbines in time . . . and will be injured or killed by the rotating 16m-wide blades."7

Like tidal energy, however, wave energy does not generate greenhouse gases. And though some places do not have high enough waves to generate energy, others seem perfect for wave technology. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, "Waves big enough to generate power occur 80 percent to 90 percent of the time."8 This is far more reliable than the typical wind-powered generating system. Thus, while wind power technology is much more developed at the moment, wave power may yet become an important source of energy in some regions.

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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