Our ocean could be charging our batteries next

By Bryan Donoghue
Flapjack staff

The light chatter clouded the room, filling the atmosphere with insightful speculation from the spectators. Everyone’s anticipation made it feel as if though a curtain was about to be drawn back, as a lackluster light illuminated the room. The room started off with only six people, but within just a few minutes 121 seats were filled to capacity. The title of the presentation was displayed on the screen, “State of the Science on Environmental Issues and Marine Renewable Energy”, the room became silent, and everyone was ready to begin. This is the environment presented at an HSU Sustainable Future Speaker Series. Speaking was Sharon Kramer; a principal at H.T. Harvey and associates, with more than 25 years of experience in aquatic ecology and fisheries biology.

“You can use water as a source for Marine renewable energy,” she began.

The business of renewable energy is increasing as transition movements wanting 100 percent water, wind, and solar become more popular. This is opening up opportunities for other renewable resources too. Kramer reminds us that California is still only at about 50 percent of renewable energy resource use. Seawater provides a plentiful, easy to use renewable energy that harnesses the power of marine hydro-kinetic energy, the powerful push and pull of the waves, and currents underneath. Casey Tucker, a 20-year-old environmental resource engineer student at HSU believes that wind and tidal renewable energy has benefit to the future, “they are the future. Solar power doesn’t work all the time, such as in cloudy areas, so having an alternative is great,” he said.

Kramer says the industry is getting progressively more expensive as well because its currently still under development.  This is partly because the industry is working on putting turbines off shore. Kramer gave a great example with surge devices.

“These are very interesting,” she said. “There’s no power cable, but the turbine on land collects energy from the movement in the waves.”  Surge devices are becoming more popular, along with a large variety of other renewable energy devices used in marine environments.

The marine environmental impacts are worrying students and scientists alike. Cedar Kuplenk, a 20-year-old student in natural resources, is worried about the microscopic organic life that is the lifeline to our oceans food chain.

“I’d be most worried about coastal degradation,” he said, “especially considering the increasing acidity to the ocean, the phytoplankton are in a lot of trouble.”

Kramer touched on the subject as well, giving examples: ropes between moorings could get tangled, lighting from the devices could negatively effect bird behavior and the marine life that navigates on magnetic fields.

Kramer ended on a positive note. It will take about 10 years, but once more test sites and standardizing devices are put in place this renewable energy will be closer to becoming a national resource.

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