Harnessing the power of tidal currents has the potential to provide unheard of clean, renewable energy production. Nanotechnology, with its innovative approach and non-surpassed success rate, may be the conduit needed to perfect the viability of ocean-current power as an alternative energy source.
Ocean currents are a natural phenomena located along most coastlines. The only requirement for harnessing their power is that the currents amalgamate under the surface of the ocean at depths of between eighty to two hundred and thirty feet (25 – 70 meters) with a flow of between five to ten feet per second. Harnessing this type of natural energy production it is not only a feasible undertaking, but is also quite an efficient way of supplying a clean, alternative energy source.
Although tidal power is an amazing concept, wave power also offers a much needed link to cheaper, cleaner power and its availability and conversion is being investigated vigorously in the ongoing race to market an economical, clean, renewable source of energy. Concerting above ground wind turbine units to meet undersea performance is technologically possible and, with a few adjustments, present day wind turbines are easily adapted to harness the awesome power of the sea.
Physicists have studied the gravitational pull of the moon and its effect on ocean currents for eons. Ocean tides are predictable, constant, natural occurrences that are easily forecasted for years in advance. This awesome and essentially untapped source of alternative power is not negatively affected either by adverse weather conditions or climate changes – which makes it ideal for further investigation and implementation.
In order to harness the full power of the ocean, nanotechnology may be just the ticket needed to successfully construct man-made tidal dams designed to control the flow as the tides ebb and recede. Predetermined openings would allow ocean currents to flow up through these gaps into a bay or estuary where the water is collected in the dam-like barrage and then released via a series of sluice gates and through a turbine which in turn generates electricity.
This alternative energy source is well established in La Rance France where a 240 megawatt facility has been operating since 1966. In addition, other, smaller sites have also garnered some success in Canada and in South Korea plans are underway to construct a plant larger than the one in France. However, there is one drawback to this type of power harnessing. Naturalists and environmentalists are concerned with the effects that constant flooding of the barrages has on the delicate ecosystems within the bays and estuaries where they are located.
Nanotechnology scientists are working in close liaison with forward thinking ecologists to correct this deficiency by designing a type of tidal lagoon to house the turbines. Instead of creating dams within the estuary itself, they propose to take advantage of strides in nanotechnology in order to erect man-made lagoons just off shore which would be built up from the seabed and reach out at least one meter above the high tide level. In this type of construction, the turbines would be situated in a wall close to, but not interfering with, the seabed itself. The concept is simple and very effective: the water would flow in through the turbine during high tide filling the lagoon, at low tide the flow would be reversed and the turbines turned in the opposite direction. The result is a generation of electricity in both directions four times a day. Careful placement of the lagoon would be determined by the differential between the maximum heights achievable between high and low tides. Producing energy by this means is anticipated to cost less than any coal fired facility, while protecting and encouraging a positive ecological environment.
Plans are underway to begin construction in several locations off the coast of Wales and China. This combination of conventional technology in partnership with nanotechnology advances has put environmental and ecological issues to rest, yet there is still a viable concern that this type of energy plant may have an adverse effect on shipping lanes. However, these concerns have also been considered and development of barrage ocean turbines that operate independently with little or no interference to ship traffic is well into production stages.
Because narrow passages promote the fastest movement of currents, the feasibility of harnessing huge amounts of power via ocean turbines offers an excellent alternative to nuclear and coal fired energy generating plants. With the reduced threat of ecosystem damage, advanced technology, co-operation between industry and environmental agencies and the almost unlimited locations that can potentially provide ideal conditions for tidal/ocean power harnessing, this type of energy source is generating serious attention worldwide.
Therefore, this begs the question: Is it really necessary to expose our planet and its people to constant ecological threat by continuing to provide nuclear power and its associated danger to the environment? The answer is, unequivocally – No. For those of us who care about living in a cleaner, safer world, it is imperative that we embrace nanotechnology assisted methods of energy generation which are proven to exceed present energy output while reducing the threat of pollution and destruction of our ecosystems.