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Ocean electrical energy generation : An overview and potential for Oregon's Territorial Sea Public Deposited

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  • This report deals with the current status of four promising sources of electrical energy generation from the oceans. They are, in sequence; Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion: Where energy is obtained by exploiting the temperature differences between warm surface waters, and much deeper colder waters. Tidal Energy: Where differences in water height between tidal cycles is contained within enclosures of the sea, and then released through turbines to generate power. Wind Energy: Where the high velocity of wind over the ocean is harnessed by wind turbines mounted on offshore structures. Wave Energy: Where the power of ocean swells is captured by devices which turn this energy of height and movement into useful power. Although many other forms of obtaining energy from the sea have been proposed, the above four have been chosen for presentation due to the fact that each has reached at least the prototype stage or has actually been commercially implemented. Other forms of ocean energy generation, such as current energy, power from salinity gradients, and kelp biomass conversion, are largely still in creative infancy. Presentation of each of the four energy generating techniques is by three sections; Background and Technology, Environmental Impacts, and Potential for Oregon's Territorial Sea. A less researched and detailed treatment of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion is presented than for the other three potential sources of ocean energy. This is for two reasons. First, unlike the other energy sources, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion has previously received extensive popular publicity. Much better treatments of the subject are available than presented here. Secondly, the technique has absolutely no potential for Oregon's territorial sea, a focus to which this report is geared. It is unlikely that any of these forms of energy production will provide part of Oregon's near term energy supply. A present over capacity of electrical power, as well as low oil prices now remove the incentive to begin development. High capital costs of construction, and an energy policy which provides indirect subsidies to traditional energy generating techniques, including nuclear power, make ocean energy electrical costs higher than existing rates. Such a situation may change in the future. Nuclear power may become politically unacceptable. Oil prices will rise. Technology of ocean energy will improve. Advances in design, and standardization of techniques will bring cost down. Long term commitment to ocean energy may be forthcoming. And finally, related developments such as workable, cost effective "super conductors" may allow the intermittent power of the ocean to be stored without loss, resulting in a more dependable ocean energy supply.
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