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Surprising Science

Getting Energy From The Ocean Floor

A group of companies are coming together to create a new kind of power generator that would harvest energy from currents found at oceans' deepest depths.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A consortium of companies, including Eaton Corporation, Triton, and others, are in the process of building the first-ever collection system designed to harvest energy from the currents found in the depths of Earth’s oceans. Triton will build the 1-megawatt turbine that will sit on the seafloor, and Eaton will design the software and connections that will bring the energy to the grid. It’s the latest in a series of recent ocean energy initiatives which include September’s launch of the first tidal power station for Maine.

What’s the Big Idea?

Eaton executive Jim Spaulding explains the importance of viewing ocean currents as a possible source of renewable power: “[They] are generated by differences in the ocean’s salinity and temperature around the continents [and] run at a constant speed of about 3 to 5 knots. That’s the appeal: [they’re] very, very consistent.” One possible spot for the first demonstration of the system is somewhere off the coast of Florida, where strong currents are available at easily-accessible depths. According to Eaton representatives, “the 1-MW demonstration project could easily be built up to a utility-scale current farm by adding more turbines.”

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