Marine current energy conversion: the dawn of a new era in electricity production
Marine currents can carry large amounts of energy, largely driven by the tides, which are a consequence of the gravitational effects of the planetary motion of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun. Augmented flow velocities can be found where the underwater topography (bathymetry) in straits between islands and the mainland or in shallows around headlands plays a major role in enhancing the flow velocities, resulting in appreciable kinetic energy. At some of these sites where practical flows are more than 1 m s−1, marine current energy conversion is considered to be economically viable. This study describes the salient issues related to the exploitation of marine currents for electricity production, resource assessment, the conversion technologies and the status of leading projects in the field. This study also summarizes important issues related to site development and some of the approaches currently being undertaken to inform device and array development. This study concludes that, given the highlighted commitments to establish favourable regulatory and incentive regimes as well as the aspiration for energy independence and combating climate change, the progress to multi-megawatt arrays will be much faster than that achieved for wind energy development.