Last year I came across the story of Dutch company Kema and their energy island idea – basically a variant on the usual pumped hydro energy storage concept where water is pumped out of a space below sea level then allowed to flow back in, generating power as it does. The “island” uses wind power to pump water out of the enclosed area. An obvious extension to this idea would be to harness ocean energy as well – letting wave and/or tidal power supplement the output of the wind turbines. An attraction of this concept is that it potentially allows a large amount of new energy storage to be brought online – and this storage would be along the world’s coastlines, where most of the population lives.
Another form of energy island has been in the news recently, this one a substantially more ambitious proposal which envisions artificial islands to collect wind, wave, ocean current and solar power in the tropics, along with a more unusual energy source – harnessing the difference in water temperatures between the warm surface and the cold depths using a technique called OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion). These islands are being proposed by architects Dominic Michaelis and his son Alex Michaelin as a response to Richard Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge, which offers $25 million in prizes for innovative solutions for combating global warming.
While the practicality of these particular proposals has yet to be put to the test, the various forms of ocean power are probably the most overlooked of the big 6 renewable energy sources (along with solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydro).
Go there and read. More next week.