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Alaskan Coastal Waters Have Significant Potential to Produce Clean Energy, Economic Opportunity and Jobs: U.S. Department of Energy

WASHINGTON, DC - Reports released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimate that waves and tidal currents off the Alaskan coast contain enough energy to generate over 850 terawatt hours of electricity per year if developed to their maximum potential.  The two nationwide resource assessments estimate Alaska’s significant wave and tidal resources and demonstrate that waves and tidal currents off the nation’s coasts could contribute significantly to the United States’ total annual electricity production, further diversify the nation’s energy portfolio, and provide clean, renewable energy to coastal cities and communities. 

“Alaska’s wave and tidal current resources offer real opportunities to generate renewable energy using water power technologies in the future,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  “Together with new advances and innovations in water power technologies, these resource assessments can help to further develop the country’s significant ocean energy resources, create new industries and new jobs in America, and secure U.S. leadership in an emerging global market.”

These new wave and tidal resource assessments, combined with ongoing analyses of the technologies and other resource assessments, show that water power, including conventional hydropower and wave, tidal, and other water power resources, can potentially provide 15 percent of our nation’s electricity by 2030. The reports represent the most rigorous analysis undertaken to date to accurately define the magnitude and location of America’s ocean energy resources. 

The United States uses about 4,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year. DOE estimates that the maximum theoretical electric generation that could be produced from waves and tidal currents is approximately 1,420 TWh per year, approximately one-third of the nation’s total annual electricity usage. Although not all of the resource potential identified in these assessments can realistically be developed, the results still represent major opportunities for new water power development in the United States, highlighting specific opportunities to expand on the 6 percent of the nation’s electricity already generated from renewable hydropower resources.

The wave report, “Mapping and Assessment of the United States Ocean Wave Energy Resource,”  and the tidal report, “Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States,” calculate the maximum kinetic energy available from waves and tides off U.S. coasts that could be used for future energy production. The data used to create these reports are available in the U.S. Renewable Resource Atlas prepared by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and in Georgia Tech’s tidal energy resource database.

In addition to the wave and tidal resource assessments, DOE plans to release additional resource assessments for ocean current, ocean thermal gradients, and new hydropower resources in 2012. To support the development of technologies that can tap into these vast water power resources, the DOE’s Water Power Program is undertaking a detailed technical and economic assessment of a wide range of water power technologies in order to more accurately predict the opportunities and costs of developing and deploying these innovative technologies. The Program currently sponsors over 40 demonstration projects that will advance the commercial readiness of these systems, provide first-of-a-kind, in-water performance data that will validate cost-of-energy predictions, and identify pathways for large cost reductions.

For more information on the reports, see the DOE progress alert.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce dependence on foreign oil. DOE’s Water Power Program is paving the way for industry and government to make sound investment and policy decisions about the deployment of renewable water power technologies by quantifying the nation’s theoretically available water power resources.

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