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Energy from the Oceans

Ocean Facts
• The oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface
and contain 97 percent of the Earth's water. Less
than 1 percent is fresh water
• The highest tides in the world are at the Bay of
Fundy. The difference between high and low tide can
be 53 feet 6 inches.
• Ninety percent of all volcanic activity occurs in the
• A slow cascade of water beneath the Denmark Strait
sinks 2.2 miles, more than 3.5 times farther than
Venezuela's Angel Falls
• Earth's longest mountain range is the Mid-Ocean
• Canada has the longest coastline of any country, at
56,453 mi.

Ocean Facts
• El Niño, a periodic shift of warm waters from the
western to eastern Pacific Ocean, has dramatic
effects on climate worldwide.
• At the deepest point in the ocean the pressure is
more than 8 tons per square inch, or the
equivalent of one person trying to support 50
jumbo jets.
• At 39 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of
almost all of the deep ocean is only a few
degrees above freezing.
• If the ocean's total salt content were dried, it
would cover the continents to a depth of 5 feet.
• The Antarctic Ice Sheet is almost twice the size
of the US

Energy from the Oceans
• Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
• Wave Energy
• Tidal Energy
• Energy from Currents – Oceans and
• Hydropower

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
• Converts solar radiation to electric power
• OTEC systems use the ocean's natural
thermal temperature differential to drive a
power-producing cycle
• If temperature between the warm surface
water and the cold deep water differs by
about 20°C (36°F), an OTEC system can
produce a significant amount of power

• Potential is estimated to be about 1013
watts of baseload power generation

Closed System

Open System

OTEC History
• 1861 Jacques d'Arsonval, a French physicist,
proposed tapping the thermal energy of the
• 1930 Georges Claude built an experimental 22
kW open-cycle OTEC system at Matanzas Bay,
Cuba. Failed to achieve positive net energy.
• 1974 Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii
NELHA at Keahole Point on the Kona coast of
the island of Hawaii.
• 1979 53 kWe plant at NELHA, 15 kWe net.
• 1981 Japan 100 kWe plant, net 31.5 kWe.
• 1993 NELHA test 50 kWe net plant.

• Economics prohibit a permanent,
continuously operating OTEC plant
• OTEC is promising as an alternative for
tropical island communities
• OTEC plants in these markets could
– Power
– Desalinated water
– Mariculture products

Wave Energy
• Oscillating water columns
• Floats or pitching devices
• Wave surge or focusing devices
• High power density

Oscillating Water Column

Pitching Devices - Pelamis
• Ocean Power Delivery Ltd - offshore wave
energy converter called Pelamis.
• The Pelamis has a similar output to a modern
wind turbine. The first prototype has been built
and is being tested at the European Marine
Energy Centre in Orkney, Scotland
• Future `wave farm' projects may consist of an
arrangement of interlinked multi-machines
connected to shore by a single subsea cable. A
typical 30MW installation would occupy a square
kilometre of ocean and provide sufficient
electricity for 20,000 homes.



• The rising and falling of the waves off
shore causes the buoy to move freely up
and down
• The resultant mechanical stroking drives
the electrical generator
• The generated AC power is converted into
high voltage DC and transmitted ashore
via an underwater power cable


OPT power station showing multiple buoys and underwater transmission
cable. Inset shows individual PowerBuoy™. A 10-Megawatt OPT power
station would occupy only approximately 4 acres of ocean space.

Tidal Energy

Neap Tide
Spring Tide

Bay of Fundy – Medium Tide Bay of Fundy – Low Tide

Three Schemes for Tidal Energy
• Barrage or dam - A barrage or dam is used to convert
tidal energy into electricity by forcing the water through
turbines. The turbines turn an electric generator to
produce electricity.
• Tidal fence - Tidal fences look like giant turnstiles. They
can reach across channels between small islands or
across straits between the mainland and an island. The
turnstiles spin via tidal currents typical of coastal waters.
Some of these currents run at 5–8 knots (5.6–9 miles per
hour) and generate as much energy as winds of much
higher velocity.
• Tidal Turbine - Tidal turbines look like wind turbines.
They are arrayed underwater in rows, as in some wind
farms. The turbines function best where coastal currents
run at between 3.6 and 4.9 knots (4 and 5.5 mph). Ideal
locations for tidal turbine farms are close to shore in
water depths of 20–30 meters (65.5–98.5 feet).

Barrage or Dam
Involves erecting a dam across the
opening to a tidal basin. The dam includes
a sluice that is opened to allow the tide to
flow into the basin; the sluice is then
closed, and as the sea level drops,
traditional hydropower technologies can
be used to generate electricity from the
elevated water in the basin.

Tidal Energy
Uses large turbines similar to windmills that
are turned by ocean movements to
generate electricity.

Ocean/River Current Energy
• Similar principle to tidal turbines
• Would set up in environments where flow
is constant and large
– Gulf Stream
– Hudson River


• Used historically to power waterwheels,
mills, etc.
• Now almost exclusively for electricity via
dam construction
• Some countries get almost all their power
from hydro: Norway, Nepal, Brazil
• 74,000 MWe now installed in US
• Percentage in US is declining (Wattage
roughly the same)

Hydropower Advantages
• Non-polluting
• Renewable
• Low maintenance
• Reservoirs have multiple functions

Hydropower Disadvantages
• Silting of reservoirs
• Loss of free-flowing
streams (Salmon in the
• Changes in habitat and
• Negative water
conservation through
evaporation and
• Risk of dam failure – St.
Francis Dam, Teton Dam

Teton Dam Failure, 1976