“Sustainability” is a buzzword that surrounds today’s environmental practices. When it comes to changing consumer habits, the proper disposal of waste, building new apartment complexes, and talking about the world’s energy future, sustainable is what everyone is aiming for. The human race has been using Earth’s resources at a rate faster than can be naturally replenished since 1980, and now, in the 21st century, we are in some serious environmental pickles. It’s difficult for me to grasp because the full negative consequences can’t be felt at the moment, but I have no doubt that our children’s children will be leading very different lives on a seriously altered planet down the road.
It goes without saying that the US consumes an astounding amount of energy on a daily basis. While many alternative forms of energy have been put into use in recent years, such as wind farms and natural gas extraction, experts are still looking for other ways to lessen our burning of fossil fuels. The reality is that so much of our world depends on coal for electricity that we need a plethora of alternative energy sources to make up a large dividend of the energy we get from fossil fuels. One clean energy source I’ve been learning about in my oceanography course (GEOSC 040) is Marine Energy. The ocean is the world’s largest natural resource and many of its features, such as tides, currents, and waves, are renewable inherent resources. While Marine Energy currently contributes less than one percent of world needs, I don’t see why it can’t be a viable option to expand upon in the future.
The concept of marine energy centers on using the ocean’s energy to generate power. To start, we can look towards offshore wind farms. Large windmills, similar to the ones you’ve probably seen throughout the countryside of Pennsylvania, are placed in open ocean water to take advantage of the high steady winds that blow over the ocean and coasts especially. While owners of beachfront property tend to complain that their view is obstructed by tall metal structures, I believe the benefits outweigh this small disadvantage: if the present rate of development of continues, wind could provide 12% of electricity demand by 2025.
Another aspect of the ocean that humans can capitalize on is tides. With today’s technology, the times and heights of tides can be predicted with great accuracy. Electricity can be extracted from high-tide water, especially in bays where ocean water is confined. Water flows through submersed turbines and the resulting electricity is transported to shore. This is a free, renewable energy source that has relatively low operating costs, but the design of such turbines is complex and expensive to construct. Current and wave energy can also be harnessed in similar methods to tidal energy.
Although the word is oftentimes overused, sustainability is the future. In order to continue our current lifestyles, alternative forms of energy must be put into practice. I see no better place to start than taking advantage of the world’s ocean. The potential of tidal, current, and wind power has yet to be fully discovered and may be a large part of the solution to the world’s energy crisis.
Garrison, Tom. Essentials of Oceanography. Stamford, CT: Cenage Learning, 2015. 7th Edition. Print.