A Ordonez Undergraduate, Arizona State University, June 2012
Concerns about fossil fuel supplies and an ever-increasing demand for energy have prompted the search for alternative power sources. One option is the ocean, a power-dense and renewable source of energy; but its capacity to meet human energy demands is poorly understood. While raw wave energy resources have been investigated at many scales, little is known about where and how much power can be extracted. Even less is known about the energy available in ocean currents, especially on a global scale. This study assessed where significant amounts of energy in ocean waves and currents are available for human use. Global wave and current energy were calculated from model data and mapped. To assess the recoverable energy around the United States, population and marine protected area data were combined with technical specifications for the Pelamis and SeaGen energy convertors, and the dollar values of the energy were estimated. The results suggest that promising amounts of wave and current energy are available both globally and around the United States. Potential locations for wave and current energy farms appear to exist on the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf Coasts of the U.S. Further research in this area may lead to greater support for developing, testing, and deploying ocean energy converter technology.