Forms of Ocean Energy

For the purposes of this paper, ocean energy resources are defined as those energy resources, which use seawater as either the motive power or for its chemical or heat potential. There are at least six principal forms of ocean energy, which could be harnessed to produce electricity or other products. These forms are:

1. Wave Energy

2. Tidal Energy a. Tidal Rise and Fall b. Tidal Streams

3. Ocean Current Energy

4. Ocean Thermal Energy a. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)

b. Submarine Geothermal Energy

5. Salinity Gradient

6. Marine Biomass

Some authors consider offshore wind energy as a form of ocean energy but it is derived from the movement of winds, rather than the kinetic movement of seawater. Offshore wind energy is thus not really a form of ocean energy and is not considered further here.

The remaining seven forms of ocean energy have been under investigation for over 100 years and, with the exception of adaptation of hydro-electric dam technology for tidal barrages, are still relatively underdeveloped. Nonetheless, these disparate forms of energy are globally distributed and may offer significant opportunities to supplement or displace existing generation sources, particularly as costs for fossil fuel energy sources rise.

The products of these forms of energy can be used for a number of different purposes:

1. Generation of electricity (AC and DC)

2. Production of pressurized and potable water

3. Production of heat

4. Production of hydrogen

5. Production of bio-fuels

A number of ocean energy technologies are being developed to produce potable water, either directly or via generation of electricity to drive desalination plants (Jalihal and Kathiroli 2009). Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is also being developed for use as seawater air conditioning, 'district cooling' and seawater enrichment of onshore mariculture operations (Nihous 2009).

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