Ocean energy gaining momentum in Washington

Nov 14, 2011

You might call it harnessing the power of the moon.

Ocean energy is electricity that is generated when the power of tides, waves and currents moves turbines and windmills. It’s an idea that’s caught on already in Oregon. And there are plans on the horizon to bring it to Washington. 

It’s a nascent idea in Washington, but people are definitely talking about it.  The Washington State Ocean Energy Conference last week in Bremerton had 200 participants looking at challenges and opportunities, such as how to put heavy turbines on the ocean floor and keep fisheries healthy.

At least one of the keynote speakers in Bremerton seems to be aggressively promoting the idea that ocean power is one of the best alternatives to overseas petroleum.

“My approach to this is we don’t say no to any other forms of energy. We’re just saying ocean energy is a very viable part of a future portfolio. We’re gonna need all of these other approaches – there’s no question," says Jason Busch, who is with the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, a non-profit ocean energy developer in Oregon.

Busch also stopped by a breakfast gathering of clean tech enthusiasts early Friday morning in Seattle.

He says more local utilities should follow in the footsteps of Snohomish PUD, which together with federal agencies is funding a pilot project in Admiralty Inlet, near Whidbey Island.

Many utilities are interested in the power of the tides because it’s a more steady alternative source than wind, which is highly volatile, or solar power, which needs storage in batteries.

Senator Jim Hargrove, a Democrat who represents the coastal zone that includes the Olympic Peninsula  and extends all the way to Ocean Shores, is cautioning that mining the ocean for power should not be done at the expense of other, established industries, such as fishing.

And there’s a new document from the department of Ecology, looking at best practices for “Marine Spatial Planning.”

All of that aside...if you need any renewed proof of the power of the ocean, take a look at this video, from the Guardian UK travel section.  Fun stuff!