The state of the nation - ocean energy in the USA

Interview: A roadmap towards commercialisation
PHOTO: Sean O’Neill, President, OREC

The state of the nation – ocean energy in the USA

How is the state of ocean energy in the USA and where is the industry on the road to commercialization? OREC, The Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition is the place to find out.

OREC comprises over 40 members including technology developers, consultants, utilities and scientific and engineering firms from the ocean energy sector. The coalition works to encourage ocean renewable technologies and raise awareness of their vast potential. It has recently published a Roadmap for a national strategy.

OREC’s President Sean O’Neill, a public relations expert with 20 years of experience within the utility and other sectors, answers some questions about the state of affairs for the ocean energy industry in the USA.

Where does the USA lie in the ‘race’ to develop utility scale ocean renewable energy?

Sean O’Neill: The USA started out slowly, but is catching up fast. As you can see, the country is currently placed second when it comes to current wave and tidal energy activity.

Potential for 10 percent of the USA’s electricity consumption
Technologies that capture energy from waves, tides and currents represent the potential to provide up to 10 percent of the country’s current generating portfolio. Furthermore, more than half of the population lives on the country’s coasts, meaning that ocean energy can be more easily accessed from the country’s most densely populated areas, reducing transmission costs.

OREC is targeting at least 15GW of ocean energy by 2030 – is that a realistic target?

Sean O’Neill: Well, if you look at the reports this is in fact a realistic target. Actually, I would describe it as a conservative target.

What needs to be done to reach the target?

Sean O’Neill: The most important factor is the ability to focus resources. Here I am thinking about commercial, financial, scientific and political resources. These need to be focused on deploying ocean energy devices and learning from direct experience. This ability to focus resources is the critical factor on the road to commercialisation.

The most important factor is the ability to focus resources. These need to be focused on deploying ocean energy devices and learning from direct experience. This ability to focus resources is the critical factor on the road to commercialisation.

Sean O’Neill, President, OREC

The roadmap projects 240 GW globally in the coming decades - what do your projections show?

Sean O’Neill: The 240 GW projection is taken from the Carbon Trust report. It tracks well with our early rough estimates. As we speak, experts at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Georgia Institute of Technologies (GA Tech) and elsewhere are updating these estimates. The updated estimates are due out soon.

Advantages
As OREC points out in the Roadmap, developing and using ocean energy resources also supports energy independence by making use of an abundant, free and emission free domestic resource for electricity generation. As part of a diverse energy portfolio it can help guarantee a reliable electrical system.

Where are the best US wave resources?

Sean O’Neill: Typically the best wave resources are to be found on the Western coast of any continent. In the case of the USA, this means Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.


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