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New Interactive Map Reveals U.S. Tidal Energy Resources

July 7, 2011 - 10:50am

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A map generated by Georgia Tech's tidal energy resource database shows mean current speed of tidal streams | Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

A map generated by Georgia Tech's tidal energy resource database shows mean current speed of tidal streams | Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

Tidal energy -- a renewable, predictable resource available up and down America’s coastlines -- holds great promise for clean energy generation. And now, a first of its kind database gives researchers deeper insight into the potential of this energy resource for the United States.
 
The online database, developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology in cooperation with the Energy Department, maps the energy available in the nation's tidal streams. Researchers at Georgia Tech's Savannah campus used the Regional Ocean Model to simulate tidal flows along the entire U.S. coastline, which is marked by thousands of streams, rivers and bays subject to daily tides. The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory validated the model's accuracy and the resulting data are now publicly available.

Basic technology for harnessing tidal energy is straightforward -- as tides ebb and flow, the current flow is transferred to the turbine as mechanical energy, which the device converts to electricity. A variety of conversion devices are currently being proposed or are under active development.
 
The increasing interest and buzz surrounding tidal energy can be attributed to several factors. First off, tidal energy can be harnessed wherever changing tides move a significant volume of water -- including waterways near the coasts of many big U.S. cities, where electricity demand is high. A bonus is that tides can be forecast accurately, making tidal energy a renewable resource that is both reliable and predictable.
 
Georgia Tech's interactive database allows users to zoom and pan over maps of color-coded information on water depth, mean current speed, and mean kinetic power density for tidal streams along America’s coastlines. The database is highly flexible -- users can produce maps of depth and power density and select specific locations to build velocity and power density histograms, which are displayed as easy-to-read charts and graphs.
 
Although there are currently no tidal power plants in the United States, Georgia Tech's database indicates favorable conditions for tidal power generation in both the Pacific Northwest and the Atlantic Northeast. Besides large scale power production, tidal streams may serve as a local and reliable energy source for remote and dispersed coastal communities and islands.
 
The Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in projects such as Georgia Tech’s tidal stream database that improve the performance, lower the costs and accelerate the deployment of innovative wind and water power technologies. For more information, visit the Wind and Water Power Program's website.

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