Ocean Current Energy, An Untapped Resource

According to the Ocean Energy Council, “ocean [or marine] currents are one of the largest untapped renewable energy resource on the planet. Preliminary surveys show a global potential of over 450,000 MW, representing a market of more than US$550 billion”.

Energy derived from the world’s oceans is found in both kinetic (i.e. waves, tides, or currents) or potential (i.e. thermal or salinity gradients) forms. All are considered to generate useful electric power.

The potential ocean‐current energy is highest where there exists a strong flow near the ocean’s surface, especially in the Gulf Steam and Florida Current. For instance, a thousandth of the energy from the gulf stream could supply 35% of the energy requirements of Florida.

Other places where ocean current energy could be a valuable part of the energy mix include places with shallow waters and between islands, and there is research into underwater turbines that will perform well under lower velocity currents.

Many Caribbean governments cite ocean current energy as a potential area for development as they transition to renewable energy sources, although much more study is required before commercial projects are given the green light. At the moment, land-based projects such as solar, wind and geothermal appear more attractive and it will be interesting to see how the technology develops over the coming years and if submarine energy plants make it to the Caribbean basin.

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