Ocean Current Power Beats Solar, Wind, Hands Down

Self-righteous Climate Crusaders are trying to force all of us to adopt their ‘Green Transition’ based on a  very narrowly based and dubious Utopia of purely alternative ‘sustainable’ energy sources, […]
Published on February 4, 2023

Self-righteous Climate Crusaders are trying to force all of us to adopt their ‘Green Transition’ based on a  very narrowly based and dubious Utopia of purely alternative ‘sustainable’ energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines. They overwhelmingly have a curious lack of curiosity about other potential ‘low-carbon footprint’ technologies:  geothermal, wave power, ocean thermal, tidal power, and the one with the greatest potential – ocean current power.

The problems with the other ‘green’ energy sources include the lack of promising locations that would provide the needed energy.  As well, the technology involved is either too expensive or not fully developed.  As it is now, their output is, like that of solar and wind, too intermittent and unreliable.  This necessitates expensive energy storage and makes the energy grid vulnerable to outages.

While ocean current power technology is not fully commercialized, with pilot projects just being financed and trialled, it still has several advantages over other sources.  Firstly, it uses the very reliable constant flows of deep ocean water.  Second, it is, in total, potentially huge in scale, a range of 700 Gigawatts available according to Equinox (a company developing turbines to exploit the resource).  For context, industrialized nations use about one to two kilowatts per person, so ocean current power could supply 350 to 700 million people if fully utilized.

Thirdly, there is very little environmental disruption or destruction from deploying ocean current turbines.  They rest on the bottom of the sea, away from shipping and most marine life – that, in contrast to wind turbines which kill thousands of birds and are a hazard to marine life, boats, and ships. Fourthly, the technology involved is relatively simple and economic.  It does not rely on cutting edge advances or exotic minerals, and the mooring and cable connections are, apparently, fairly standard.  The fifth reason is that ocean currents are always flowing, so little energy storage or other buffering is required to ensure reliable baseload power.

Finally, with little environmental controversy involved, unlike wind turbines or land-hogging solar farms, these installations can be started fairly quickly without a lot of regulatory and legal delays and costs.  Tidal power has similar attributes, but has the disadvantages of both being highly variable and necessitates more complicated turbines to handle reverse flow.

Ocean current power being such an attractive resource it is puzzling why it has attracted so little attention.  There are a number of possible reasons.  The incumbent industries, solar and wind, already have many large players, including the manufacturers and installers of the technology.  Another is that climate activists and their comrades have little curiosity, imagination or initiative, to look at viable alternatives to the legacy alternative energy sources.

What is most likely, however, is that climate activists and their comrades are not really interested in true, practical solutions to the issue they purport to care so adamantly about.  Aside from the obvious virtue signaling they engage in, their real mission seems to be to damage, even destroy, traditional energy production, distribution and consumption based on the much disputed climate change mantra that carbon dioxide is pollution.  This even when there are no truly viable or commercial substitutes that can be scaled up to replace the coal, oil and natural gas that they, emotionally, revile.

Climate activists: overwhelmingly they seek control, not solutions.


Ian Madsen is the senior policy analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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