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Could Ocean Currents Be Used To Harness Energy?

A technology that could finally harness the mind blowing power of ocean currents to offer the world with a clean and a limitless source of renewable energy seems to be around the corner. According to a group of scientists, a large crowd funding campaign that has been termed as Crowd Energy could help them achieve exactly what has been stated above – use gigantic underwater turbines to capture the energy generated by deep ocean currents. The energy generated from these turbines might not entirely be able to replace the energy derived from fossil fuels, but it could still prove to be an extremely important source of clean energy.

Ocean currents are a source that haven’t been tapped ever before, simply because of the lack of technology to do so. The notion of installing underwater turbines also raises numerous environmental concerns. While the systems could be designed to minimize the threats, certain studies must be carried out in order to determine the potential risks of the proposed energy source.

The project mostly grew out of a desire to find an alternate to nuclear and fossil fuel energy. Wind and solar energies are popular concepts, but the group primarily wanted to target a source of energy that has never been seen before. Moreover, while wind and solar energies are promising avenues, their quantity and quality is always in question, something that should not be a problem in terms of ocean currents.

Companies such as General Electric have already attempted to adapt present day wind turbines to generate energy from the oceans, but the wind turbines could not be a success as they were not designed to capture high density energy from ocean currents. A system known as the ocean energy tribune has been developed specially for the project. This turbine rotates slower than wind turbines, but still manages to generate a lot of torque.

The turbine consists of three sets of blades which resemble window shutters in their look. These blades have been designed to close when the water flows in the same direction and open when it moves in the opposite direction. The water force turns the blades and ultimately makes the shaft rotate. A generator is used to convert the rotational energy into electricity. Preliminary studies suggest that this energy could be used to supply energy to coastal communities and possibly feed inner cities as well. The turbines could also be used to create drinking water from sea water using a purification process.

The group plans to create a production scale turbine that has a 100 foot wingspan. It has been estimated that such turbines could be used to generate about 13.5 megawatts of electricity – enough electricity to power 13500 homes. On the other hand, a wind turbine generates about 600 kilowatts of electricity, something that can power only 240 homes.

Although environmentalists are concerned about the ecological impact that these turbines could create, researchers state that they should not be a problem because they are negligible when compared to the size of the ocean. The effect that they cause on surrounding marine ecosystems is another matter altogether.

At the present moment, the group plans to have a total of four full scare turbines by the year 2015 so as to take its tests to the next level.