Solar and wind power both represent solid energy solutions as we work toward a clean energy future. Unfortunately, they share one major downside: inconsistency.
You can’t assume it will be windy every day of the week. Or trap the sun’s rays on solar panels 24 hours a day.
But there’s one clean energy source that’s proving to be just as reliable as gravity itself: the ocean.
A recent report by The United States Department of the Interior says that if we find a way to capture just 0.1% of the energy that’s flowing through the Gulf Stream, it would generate more power than Niagara Falls.
In other words, the tidal energy in the Gulf Stream alone is enough to power 24 billion 100-watt light bulbs!
So how can we harness this untapped, and potentially unlimited, power source? Well, Sweden- based, Minesto, has come up with a breakthrough technology that lets it capture tidal energy using giant underwater kites.
Here’s how it works…
Fields of Underwater Kites Riding the Tide
New York-based, Verdant Power, has already proven that wind turbines can be used to capture the kinetic energy from underwater currents, just as they harness the wind.
In 2006, the company developed six underwater turbines through the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project in New York’s East River, which generated 70-megawatt hours of electricity for facilities nearby.
But when you compare the hidden power of the ocean’s currents, river turbines don’t even register a blip.
That’s why Minesto made an unusual modification to Verdant’s idea – it attached the turbine to a kite and anchored it to the ocean floor.
You see, the company’s “Deep Green” tidal energy project uses underwater kites to harvest the force of ocean currents. Basically, a kite is attached to a turbine by a movable string that simply shifts based on the tide’s direction.
The kite is then steered by a rudder in figure-eight patterns to amplify tidal force.
From there, the energy is funneled to the attached turbine and stored in an underground generator.
Simply by adding kites to the turbines, Minesto’s technology captures 1,000 times more energy than the tides produce on their own. So it can even be used to generate electricity in areas with slow moving currents.
The company recently received $560,000 from The Carbon Trust (a nonprofit energy investment company) in order to develop a functional prototype of this technology. And the plan is to build a field of underwater kites along the U.K.’s coastline.
If things go well, Minesto hopes this technology will power a city of nearly 200,000 people by 2020.
Bottom line: Tidal power represents a massive untapped energy resource. And the space is just starting to heat up. The possibility of controlling a potentially unlimited clean energy source with minimal environmental impact will surely make plenty of companies take notice.
According to Fast Company, “Applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for new hydrokinetic sites have soared in the last three years: 79 have been approved since 2009 and 145 more are awaiting final approval.”
Of course, we’ll monitor the situation as it unfolds for any investment potential that might arise.