The renewable energy sources of wind and solar have been hot topics as costs decrease and usage increases in response to climate change and the transition from fossil fuels. There is another player in the renewables space, and that is marine and hydrokinetic power, which is the energy generated by the movement of a body of water. Traditional hydropower created with dams and conduits is included, but there is much more to it.
Power generated by capturing the energy of naturally flowing water is called in-stream hydrokinetic power. It is generated by turbines much like wind power. Wave energy has recently made the news with the approval of a commercial scale testing facility 7 miles off the coast of Newport, Oregon. PacWave South has a lease for 25 years and when it is fully operational in 2023, will support testing of 20 technologies at one time.
Hydrokinetic energy has been part of the entrepreneurial landscape for quite some time. It is not as commercially viable yet as wind and solar, but those technologies were not competitive a decade ago, either.
A project by Ocean Renewable Power Company has signed a 5 year plan with the city of Eastport, Maine to develop a microgrid primarily powered by tidal generation. It will expand the workforce in Eastport by creating about 100 jobs, and it will add resiliency to the power grid.
In Alaska, villages that are too far from the cities are often dependent on diesel energy, which is highly polluting and quite expensive, as it has to be flown or barged in. It also has 17.1 percent of the United States hydrokinetic energy potential, and 200 off-the-grid villages, many located near rivers or other bodies of water. In 2015, the Igiugig village became the home of clean power from a turbine located in the Kvichak River. The energy provided has decreased the energy costs for the village. They also note that the turbine has not disturbed the natural river environment, nor impacted the sockeye salmon migration in the area.
These are just a couple of the small grid and experimental installations that are generating hydrokinetic power in the United States. With more than 50% of the population living within 50 miles of a coastline, it seems that this power source could positively impact the energy grid, adding additional capability and resilience.
In addition, it is estimated that 140,000 to 440,000 jobs will be directly created by new hydropower development by 2025. There is potential for an additional 95,000 to 265,000 new jobs created indirectly as well. These jobs probably won’t be created in time to be part of the needed economic recovery right now, but the future looks bright for renewable energy jobs in this sector moving forward.
We believe that research into new forms of renewable energy and also into improvements to current forms of renewables will be what moves us forward environmentally and economically. Let us know your thoughts in the comments about hydrokinetic energy or something else you believe holds promise.