Ocean renewable energy

The free flow turbine from Verdant Power

Have you ever been knocked down hard by a rouge wave? Then you know that the water in the oceans packs some serious power, in the form of waves, tides, and currents. The first commercial electric projects to harness this power are going to come online in the US next year.  I put together a slideshow of technologies for generating renewable electricity from the power of the oceans, that’s up on Discovery.com this week. Check it out.

In reporting for this story, I learned a lot more about ocean renewable energy technology then I was able to fit into the Discovery story. First off, unlike wind and solar, the oceans provide a constant source of power, so you don’t run into the same intermittent resource problems. Here’s some other interesting aspects to ocean renewables. Continue reading


Greening the Grid 2011

The University of Wisconsin EnergyHub sponsored a conference on Friday on the future of energy and the potential for greening the grid.

The event featured a variety of speakers, from the state public utility commission to a professionally trained futurist. I learned a lot of really interesting stuff. Some highlights include that the future of wind and solar energy depends on the future of batteries, that building a smart, efficient grid brings privacy and security concerns, and that several local companies have devised some really interesting ways to increase their sustainability.

Many of us take the constant presence of electricity for granted. Whenever we want it, we flip a switch, and the power is there, waiting to charge a laptop or crisp some cold bread into toast. However, the tricky thing about the electricity is that we continuously have to be making as much as we are using.  Make too much, we can’t store it. Make too little, we’d have blackouts.  So forecasting precisely how much electricity is needed every day, and scaling production to that need is critical to a functioning power grid.

The problem is, for any given day, it’s hard to forecast exactly how much the sun will shine or the wind will blow. These renewable resources are called Intermittent Resources, because we can’t use them at a consistent rate, like a nuclear plant or adjust their production like a natural gas power facility.  Continue reading