U.S. funding tidal energy research programs

More than $20 million will support research aimed at reducing costs and environmental impact.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Aug. 31, 2016 at 7:44 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. federal government said it was slated to release cash to help support research and development for power generated from marine currents.

Ten organizations were selected by the Energy Department to share more than $20 million in funding for projects meant to explore options for generating electricity from ocean waves and tidal currents.

"These projects will aim to improve the performance of marine and hydrokinetic energy systems and advance environmental monitoring technologies that will help protect wildlife and reduce uncertainty regarding potential environmental impacts," the Energy Department said in a statement.

Much of the funding targets operations on the western U.S. coast, where companies are testing technology meant to reduce the cost of wave energy. Research at the University of Washington in Seattle, meanwhile, will examine ways to lessen noise pollution in an effort to curb the potential impact on marine life.

French energy company ENGIE in July unveiled plans to build a tidal energy project on the western coast of the Cotentin peninsula in the English Channel. Characterizing the pilot project as having a "limitless" energy potential, the French company said it aims to install four tidal turbines with a total generating capacity of 5.6 megawatts.

The U.S. Energy Department estimates tidal streams in the country could generate as much as 330 terawatt-hours of power per year, noting about 90,000 average households could get by on 1 TWh per year.

The Energy Department last year deployed a wave energy prototype dubbed Azura at a test site at Kaneohe Bay off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Developer Northwest Energy Innovations, with help from a $5 million federal grant, tested an earlier prototype off the coast of Oregon in 2014.

With more than half the U.S. population living within 50 miles of a coastline, the government said marine and hydrokinetic technologies could help exploit an untapped renewable energy resource.

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