May 29 2011

Gulf Stream Energy

Published by under Student blog entries

An article on the New York Times website called “Interior to Review Proposal to Tap Florida Ocean Currents” detailed a statement released a few days ago by the Interior Department concerning a proposal for permission to build a test ocean current energy installation by Florida Atlantic University. The proposal is currently under environmental review. This installation is the first lease the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) has received to test ocean current technology off of the coast on the US continental shelf.

FAU plans to place its test ocean current energy generator in the Gulf Stream; the Gulf Stream is a vast and warm ocean current that travels from the Gulf of Mexico, wraps around Florida and North Carolina, and finally heats waters off the coast of the United Kingdom. The Gulf Stream is an especially desirable site for ocean current technology because of its relatively strong currents.

What makes this proposal important for North Carolina?

Bearing a considerable portion of the strong currents of the Gulf Stream before it veers off into the Atlantic, North Carolina has a great opportunity to benefit from research done on the Gulf Stream. If ocean current technology proves to be economically viable and the environmental impact survey shows no dramatic impact, it is possible that ocean current energy could play a key role in North Carolina meeting its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS). The production of ocean current energy technologies in state could provide new jobs and diversify North Carolina’s economy.

But what about the environmental impacts of ocean current technology? An installation of ocean current turbines could have negative impacts on fish migrations, mooring to the ocean floor could disrupt habitats, along with a number of other problems that are discussed to greater depths under the “Environmental Stressors” page on the main page of the “Energy and the Environment- A Coastal Perspective” main page.

One problem that is of concern is how the withdrawal of energy from the Gulf Stream (energy is conserved, so all energy taken by the turbines is deducted from the current) will impact the transfer of heat from equator to the North Atlantic enabled by the Gulf Stream. The potential threat of this problem is relatively unknown, but the Gulf Stream remains a huge untapped resource.

^ The Gulf Stream and the Southeast, picture from Carolina Saltwater

New York Times Article “Interior to review Proposal to Tap Florida Ocean Currents” can be found here.



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