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Published July 21, 2009 09:46 AM

Hydrokinetic Technologies: Will the U.S. Lose Ocean Energy to Europe?

The earth is the water planet, so it should come as no great surprise that forms of water power have been one of the world’s most popular "renewable" energy sources. Yet the largest water power source of all – the ocean that covers three-quarters of earth – has yet to be tapped in any major way for power generation. There are three primary reasons for this:

The first is the nature of the ocean itself, a powerful resource that cannot be privately owned like land that typically serves as the foundation for site control for terrestrial power plants of all kinds;

The second is funding. Hydropower was heavily subsidized during the Great Depression, but little public investment has since been steered toward marine renewables with the exception of ocean thermal technologies, which were perceived to be a failure.

The third reason why the ocean has not yet been industrialized on behalf of energy production is that the technologies, materials and construction techniques did not exist until now to harness this renewable energy resource in any meaningful and cost effective way.

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Ocean energy advocates face a daunting task in the light of recent proposed cuts in federal government support. With the best ocean current resource in the world in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida, excellent tidal sites in California, Maine, Washington and Alaska and prime wave resources off the coasts of California and Oregon, the U.S. is well positioned to be a global leader.

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