DOE says wave energy holds a lot of potential

The DOE thinks that water power, including conventional hydropower and wave, tidal, and other water power resources, can potentially provide 15% of U.S. electricity by 2030.

This is the conclusion to be had from a couple of recently released DOE reports which are said to represent the most rigorous analysis undertaken to date to accurately define the magnitude and location of America's ocean energy resources. One hope, says DOE, is that the information in them will help develop U.S. ocean energy resources and secure U.S. leadership in an emerging global market.

The U.S. uses about 4,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity annually. DOE estimates that the maximum theoretical electric generation that could be produced from waves and tidal currents is about 1,420 TWh per year, roughly one-third of the nation's total annual electricity usage.

DOE admits that not all of the resource potential identified in these assessments can realistically be developed, but it still thinks the results still highlight major opportunities for new water power development in the U.S., highlighting specific opportunities to expand on the 6% of the nation's electricity already generated from renewable hydropower resources.

One point of analysis in the reports is a calculation of the maximum kinetic energy available from waves and tides off U.S. coasts that could be used for future energy production, and which represent largely untapped opportunities for renewable energy development. The West Coast, including Alaska and Hawaii, has especially high potential for wave energy development, DOE says. There are also significant opportunities for wave energy along the East Coast. Additionally, parts of both the West and East Coasts have strong tides that could be tapped to produce energy.

In addition to the wave and tidal resource assessments, DOE plans to release additional resource assessments for ocean current, ocean thermal gradients, and new hydropower resources in 2012. To support the development of technologies that can tap into these vast water power resources, DOE's Water Power Program is undertaking a detailed technical and economic assessment of a wide range of water power technologies to more accurately predict the opportunities and costs of developing and deploying these innovative technologies. The Program is currently sponsoring over 40 demonstration projects that will advance the commercial readiness of these systems, provide first-of-a-kind, in-water performance data that will validate cost-of-energy predictions, and identify pathways for large cost reductions.

The DOE report on Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States can be found here:

The EPRI report, Mapping and Assessment of U.S. Ocean Wave Energy Resource, can be found here:

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