Monday, August 6, 2012

Harnessing the power of the ocean

By: Selene Aparicion


In the eternal search for alternative sources of energy, scientists throughout the world have turned their attention to the planet’s most abundant natural resource: the ocean. Wave and tidal power technologies, as renewable energy sources, represent large areas of untapped energy potential. This is no surprise. After all, the ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and contains 97% of the planet’s water.

The sea offers a vast source of power and the energy contained in waves has the potential to produce up to 80,000 TWh of electricity per year—sufficient to meet our global energy demand five times over. When it comes to generating energy from the ocean, two types of energy forms exist: tidal power and wave power.

Tidal power, as the name clearly states, is generated from oceanic tides where the rise and fall of the sea level can be utilized to produce electricity. Tidal power is usually exploited through the construction of dams across tidal basins where a channel allows the tide to flow into the basin and the elevated water is transformed into electricity through conventional hydro power technologies such as turbines.

Wave power, on the other hand, utilizes the kinetic energy present in the movement of the ocean’s waves and this energy is then used to power a turbine. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of instantaneous electricity (1 terawatt = 1 trillion watts), which is twice the electric generating capacity currently available throughout the world.

At present, Mexico is known for its beaches with clear blue water and white sand; however, now the country has the possibility to gain a different type of reputation for its sea-side spots. After a two year period from when the idea was first suggested, last month the CFE confirmed its plans to construct a wave power station in Rosarito, Baja California with an investment cost of 71.6 million MXP. The power station will have a generation capacity of 3 MW and will be constructed in a five-month period by Mareomotrices de Energías Renovables (Marersa), Integragas Telcorz and Grupo Nuhe. Construction began on June 2nd and the project is due for completion on December 10th of the current year.

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