Up to 20 million homes in Europe could be powered by clean renewable energy from the sea, according to ocean energy expert Teresa Pontes of Portugal, who was speaking at the EurOCEAN marine science and policy event in Galway today (12th May). She estimated that, by harnessing energy from waves and marine currents, Europe would produce around 200 TerraWatt (200 million megawatt) hours per year of electrical power.
“The oceans contain a huge energy resource with different origins,” said M. Terese Pontes. “The most developed conversion technologies are for tidal energy, thermal energy, marine currents and ocean waves. The last two technologies are those which have received most attention in that last fifteen years, as they show the best prospects of becoming competitive in the short to medium term.”
Wave and marine current energy generation are generally considered to be environmentally benign, with the only impacts being visual intrusion and possibly noise from air turbines on shoreline wave power plants. For offshore ocean energy plants the only conflicts could come from shipping, navigation and fishing and most of these conflicts could be minimised and, in some cases, eliminated at the planning stage.
“Europe is characterised by particularly high ocean energy, with the highest offshore power levels off Ireland and Scotland,” added M. Teresa Pontes. Going eastwards and southwards, energy levels drop from the 70 kiloWatts per hour off Ireland and Scotland to 30 kiloWatts per hour off Norway and the southern archipelagos of Madeira and the Canaries.
The EurOCEAN event continues today and tomorrow in Galway with over 500 participants from all over Europe. One of the major themes of the event is ‘Communicating Marine Science’, which was used as a keynote address by leading journalist Mr. Clive Cookson – Science Editor of the Financial Times. “Scientists are coming to realise how important it is to communicate their work to the public through the media and to engage with the public on controversial issues,” said Mr Cookson.
The EurOCEAN Conference concludes tomorrow with an address by Mr. Dermot Ahern TD., Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Rapporteurs from six parallel and plenary sessions will highlight future challenges and priorities identified during the three day Conference at the Radisson Hotel, Galway.
EurOCEAN 2004 is a European Presidency event sponsored by the European Commission, the Marine Institute, and the European Science Foundation Marine Board (ESF-MB).