By Alexandra Patel
On May 29th, the limited liability company OceanBased Perpetual Energy signed a memorandum with the Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) to secure their assistance in embarking on what is being called “the world’s largest commercial ocean current energy project.” Off Florida’s southeast coast, this project aims to install hundreds of megawatts of clean current generating equipment below the sea surface and linked to the US transmission system.
Why This Matters: Ocean current energy can tap into the flow of ocean currents through underwater turbines and extract energy that is then convertible into usable power. Tapping into ocean energy production opens to the door to vast amounts of untouched electric potential. In the United States, around 123.3 million people – roughly 39 percent of the country’s total population – live near the coast. The US Department of Energy has even estimated the technical energy potential for generation from ocean currents in the Gulf Stream is 45 terawatt hours per year. That is equivalent to two or three of Florida’s nuclear plants. The capabilities of clean energy are present and ready to be taken advantage of, all that is needed is the drive to seize such opportunities, making OceanBased Perpetual Energy and SNMREC one of the first to make this brave and much-needed leap. Impacts on marine life have been studied in Europe and experts believe most animals would be able to either ignore or get out of the way of the blades with ease because they move very slowly.
Putting It into Perspective: Currently, fossil fuels still form the backbone of the US economy, as they generate around 70 percent of the nation’s electrical power and come with a considerably lower capital cost. While previously viewed as being more costly, the transition towards renewables has led to a steady decline in prices over the last decade.
- In 2017, the average cost of fossil fuel generated electricity per kilowatt hours ranged from $0.05 to $0.17, whereas, as recent EPRI reports have discovered, the cost of power from ocean technologies ranges from $.07 to $.16 per kilowatt hour.
- These prices don’t even take into account the environmental costs associated with energy production, which when quantified would heavily tip the scales in favor of ocean energies and away from fossil fuels, due to their lack of pollution.
- While natural gas and oil prices fluctuate (as seen over the years), ocean energy costs remain stable as their power resources are free.