Clean Power

Published on January 18th, 2012 | by Andrew


Wave, Tidal, Hydro Can Provide 15% of US Electricity by 2030

January 18th, 2012 by  

Graphic courtesy US DOE

Two reports released today by the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) show that the nation’s conventional hydro, wave, tidal and other water power resources hold the potential to provide 15% of all the electricity the US needs by 2030. The DOE’s new wave and tidal resource assessment reports represent “the most rigorous analysis undertaken to date to accurately define the magnitude and location of America’s ocean energy resources,” according to a DOE press release.

US demand for electricity amounts to about 4,000 terawatt-hours (TWh), or 4 quadrillion Watt-hours, of energy per year. Overall, renewable US hydropower resources account for 6%. The average lightning strike’s peak power is said to be about 1 TW. However, according to the DOE’s analysis, maximum theoretical generation from waves and tidal currents is 1,420 TWh, about 1/3 that total.

While the DOE acknowledges that not all these resources may be economically or technologically feasible to develop, the results demonstrate the vast potential that does exist, potential that if realized would spur investment, manufacturing, and commercial activity on a nationwide scale, not to mention the green job creation that would occur.

The two reports, entitled ‘Mapping and Assessment of the United States Ocean Wave Energy Resource‘ and ‘Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States,’ calculate the maximum kinetic energy available from waves and tides off U.S. coasts that could be used for future energy production. This represents “largely untapped opportunities for renewable energy development in the United States,” the DOE explains.

Zeroing In On Ways to Capitalize on US Wave, Tidal, Hydro Energy Potential

Especially high potential for wave energy development exists on the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii, but “significant opportunities” also exist on the East Coast, according to the DOE’s analysis. Strong tidal currents that offer potentially attractive development opportunities also exist on both continental US coasts.

The DOE’s national tidal resource database was opened to the public earlier this year. Data from this resource was used to produce the new tidal stream resource analysis, which was prepared by Georgia Tech. The wave energy resource assessment report was prepared by the Electric Power Research Institute with support from researchers at Virginia Tech and the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL incorporated the data into a new marine and hydrokinetic energy section in their U.S. Renewable Resource atlas.

The DOE intends to follow up these latest renewable energy information resources with resource assessments for ocean current, ocean thermal energy gradients, and new hydropower resources this year.

To support water power resources development, the DOE’s undertaking a technical and economic assessment of “a wide range of water power technologies in order to more accurately predict the opportunities and costs of developing and deploying these innovative technologies.”

More than 40 demonstration projects that aim to advance the state of the technological art and “advance commercial readiness of these systems will provide first-of-a-kind, in-water performance data that will validate cost-of-energy predictions, and identify pathways for large cost reductions,” according to the DOE.

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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