Despite being largely ignored for many years, forms of renewable energy involving the sea are starting to show promise after recent technological and monetary advances. These so called “blue energy” sources are seeing a boom due to new equipment for power generation as well as large investments from public and private sources.
The Orkney Islands north of Edinburgh, Scotland are the perfect place for experiments in new forms of renewable energy to take place. In 2016 alone, 120% of the area’s energy demands were met through the use of wind turbine-produced electricity. Now, 2017 and beyond has given the island the opportunity to expand their clean power plans with two forms of marine energy production.
The first of these production methods involves underwater turbines, in which over 150 tons of water is processed through each of the many of the undersea turbines as a means of producing power. The second method utilizes various prototype technologies to take advantage of the movement of waves off the coast of the islands. Given that Orkney has both some of the highest waves and fastest currents anywhere in the world, it has always been and remains today one of the most advantageous locations for implementing blue energy technology.
The Carbon Trust 2011 estimates that at least 20% of the United Kingdom’s entire total energy supply could be fulfilled exclusively through water-based energy production. Orkney seems to be the proof of that, as well as the increase viability of wind power as mentioned previously. Essentially, all that remains is finding ways to implement these new forms of power generation on a wider scale.
To that end, the Scottish and United Kingdom governments as well as the European Union came together to establish the European Marine Energy Centre, or EMEC, in 2003. EMEC uses its government backing to research new methods of blue energy production and infrastructure creation, taking money from businesses hoping to break into the industry in exchange for use of what they’ve already built and help in monitoring and accrediting what the companies make.
Blue energy remains a unique option in terms of renewable power, as it is much more reliable and consistent compared to solar or wind-based solutions. The movement of tides can be predicted up to years in advance, and the necessary machinery required to draw power from the sea requires far less land usage than other options.
While there still remains a ways to go before blue energy can stand on equal footing with other forms of power, the work of EMEC and others like it are helping to make that dream a reality all the quicker.