Waves, tides, and currents constantly move the oceans, which cover over 70% of our planet’s surface. Waves are formed by the wind; tides are formed by the moon and sun, and currents are formed by changes in water temperature as well as the planet’s rotation. Ocean currents provide food and oxygen to plants and animals living in the waters and along the beaches. By eroding and accumulating sand, waves and tides also contribute to sculpting the coastline. Humans benefit from ocean movement as well: we enjoy swimming in the waves, tides aid fishing, and currents assist ships moving across the ocean. The ocean’s never-ending movement can be harnessed to provide clean, sustainable energy.
It’s no surprise that undersea currents could be the next renewable energy frontier. The Department of Energy is attempting to tap into this resource by sponsoring 11 initiatives aimed at harnessing the power of flowing water in ocean tidal currents and rivers.
According to Mario Garcia-Sanz, the program’s director, the long-term goal is to have renewable energy sources that can run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In an interview, he stated, “Our puts these systems in a very excellent position with other renewables.”
The limitations on alternative sources of sustainable energy, he continued, were one reason. Solar electricity is intermittently unavailable at night. In storms, the wind force is unpredictable and can be damaging. Underwater currents, on the other hand, travel in a rather consistent, dependable, and predictable manner.
It’s not a new idea to use running water to generate energy. Hydroelectric dams, on the other hand, are extremely expensive and have a negative influence on the environment. As a result, the most recent generation of engineers and scientists is attempting to promote the notion while minimizing the negative aspects.
Underwater turbines, which transform energy into electricity, are still in the trial stage of design and control. For one thing, the cost is a consideration; it is still far too costly for commercial use. That qualifies it for the ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) of the Department of Energy, whose aim is to “change what’s possible” through taking risks.
In this instance, ARPA-E is awarding a $38 million funding package to 11 initiatives put together by a collection of firms, colleges, and organizations in November 2020. SHARKS refers to Submarine Hydrokinetic And Riverine Kilo-megawatt Systems, and it refers to the group of projects as a whole.
SHARKS is assisting in the deployment of “Manta” and “Tidal Power Tug” machinery in the water. The Tidal Power Tug is designed, to begin with, as a machine on a white tubular buoy that juts out of the water. It’s tethered to the seabed, but beneath it is a pylon that houses a turbine-powered by a big airplane propeller. The current spin it, which drives a generator. It connects to a shore-based power infrastructure to send the electricity it generates.