Jul 22 2014

FAU Gets Green Light on Experimental Lease

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The Gulf Stream is a current which travels from the Gulf of Mexico, around the coast of Florida, along the mid-Atlantic cast, and toward Europe and possesses vast amounts of energy. This current moves eight billion gallons of water every minute. The energy behind movement of this water could be harnessed as a clean energy source to help meet the demands of the increasing human energy demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy (BOEM) the Gulf Stream has the potential to provide Florida with 35% of its electrical needs (BOEM 2013). Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthrone, cleared the gulf stream as a usable location for offshore energy production in 2007 (Allen 2007) and FAU has since then gone through the permitting process and recently was awarded a permit.  In August of 2013, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) was a granted a lease permitting it to begin experiments and observations involving the Gulf Stream as a potential source of renewable energy. With the five year, 1,000 acre lease FAU will test electricity-generating devices directly in the flow of the Gulf Stream current as well as conduct further environmental impact assessments and complete observations in attempt to better understand marine life and recognize standards for marine behavior near the Gulf Stream. One particular study which FAU is conducting focuses on observing how schools of fish approach and react to man-made devices in the water column. FAU will test its own turbine as well as private companies. It has nondisclosure agreements with over 40 private companies, only 10 of which have prototypes prepared for testing and experimentation (Sagastume 2014).

http://i1.wp.com/cleantechnica.com/files/2012/04/gulf-stream-e1335437138291.jpg?resize=500%2C314

http://i1.wp.com/cleantechnica.com/files/2012/04/gulf-stream-e1335437138291.jpg?resize=500%2C314

One company in particular, Firth Tidal Energy LTD—a sub-company of Ocean Current Energy, has captured the attention of many developers and energy companies as it plans to test a tidal turbine design in cooperation with FAU and its lease. Firth Tidal Energy was granted a permit to begin construction of the “largest turbine array in Europe” in the Pentland Firth which lies between Orkney and the Scottish mainlandin September of 2013 and have since begun the deployment process. Engineers and from Edinburgh and Oxford assessed the potential for energy harnessing in the Firth and found that there is potential to harness 4.2GW of energy from this stretch of water. Further calculations which took into consideration turbine efficiency and other factors reduced this number but the engineers found that the tidal farm could harness an astonishing 1.9GW of clean energy (BBC 2014). This energy would be enough to power nearly half (43%) of Scotland. Bruce Heafitz, CEO of Firth Tidal Energy and Ocean Current Energy has exciting plans for the Gulf Stream as plans to test a honeycomb-shaped tidal device which is constructed of Kevlar and carbon fiber. This device utilizes a combination of numerous small turbines and the Kevlar/carbon fiber casing. Heafitz and his team plan to use mooring line to suspend the tidal energy device and place it near the surface where “the current is equivalent to 200 mile-an-hour wind force.” This revolutionary device has potential to change the way tidal turbines are constructed and designed based on its success. Heafitz claims that the smaller turbine design will be both easier and cheaper to construct and maintain (Sagastume 2014).

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/10/30/article-1325152-0BD71B60000005DC-891_468x284_popup.jpg

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/10/30/article-1325152-0BD71B60000005DC-891_468x284_popup.jpg

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/14/gulf-stream-energy.html

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/14/gulf-stream-energy.html

The recent developments of the FAU lease are exciting and provide hope for the development of tidal energy devices and technologies not only in the U.S., but also around the world. Although the university was granted a relatively small area in which to experiment, the lease has potential to facilitate an offshore energy research center in the U.S. As of now the main research center for marine energy exists in Europe as the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC). Hopefully researchers in cooperation with FAU will be successful in improving tidal energy devices as well as furthering the understanding of marine life and the possible anthropogenic affects.

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