The Power of the Sea: Using Ocean Energy to Meet Florida's Need for Power

By Keley, Lisa A. | Environmental Law, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

The Power of the Sea: Using Ocean Energy to Meet Florida's Need for Power


Keley, Lisa A., Environmental Law


I.    INTRODUCTION
II.   THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
III.  WAVE TECHNOLOGY
IV.   WHY WAVES?
V.    THE "EVILS" OF FOSSIL FUELS
VI.   GLOBAL WARMING
VII.  "NO TO COAL".
VIII. "NO TO GAS & OIL"
IX.   "Just CONSERVE"
X.    FEDERAL MANDATES
XI.   STATE LEGISLATION
XII.  PURCHASING WAVE POWER
XIII. PERMITTING AUTHORITY
      A. State Permits
      B. Federal Permits
XIV.  AESTHETICS
XV.   FISHING
XVI.  IMPORTANCE OF WINNING PUBLIC SUPPORT
XVII. CONCLUSION

"Not only will atomic power be released, but someday we will harness the rise and fall of the tides and imprison the rays of the sun."--Thomas Edison (1)

I. INTRODUCTION

A growing population combined with the ever-increasing number of electrical appliances in homes and businesses has caused demand for electricity to skyrocket. The once perceived "convenience" of electricity is now considered a necessity, and traditional power generation facilities struggle to meet these demands. (2) Americans are a power-hungry society, demanding conservation of natural resources and protection of the environment while simultaneously using an incredible supply of electricity. In 2000, the "[p]er-capita average consumption of electricity ... was more than seven times as high as in 1949." (3) Despite our seemingly endless demand for power, society currently opposes the depletion of our nation's fossil fuels, an essential part of today's power production process. How can we satisfy this demand without depleting our fossil fuel supply? Renewable energy may be our answer. (4) On January 28, 2003, in his State of the Union Address, President Bush stated: "In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulation, but through technology and innovation." (5) This Comment analyzes wave power, a renewable energy source with tremendous power generation potential.

Although renewable energy encompasses a wide variety of alternatives, harvesting wave energy may serve as a viable alternative source of electric power for coastal states such as Florida. Electric conversion of wave energy can be accomplished through the use of mechanical devices that either directly or indirectly drive a generator. In turn, this power is transported to shore via submerged cables and then connected to a power grid. This supply, coupled with today's technological advancements, may provide an endless source of energy for Florida.

This Comment evaluates why wave energy is a viable source of energy production and what steps must be taken to stimulate its development. It begins with an examination of the energy available from the sea, the various technologies available to capture this energy, and their relationship, to the sustainability of electric power in Florida. Next, it examines the environmental benefits of wave power versus existing fuels, giving emphasis to the local political atmosphere in Florida. The Comment then discusses the legislative action that must be taken to encourage the development of wave farms and, finally, why consideration must be given to public concerns.

II. THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE

Florida currently generates only one percent of its energy from renewable sources. (6) By utilizing the nation's second longest coastline, (7) Florida has the opportunity to lead the nation in its movement toward the use of renewable energy. To do so, state government must first take action by passing new legislation mandating that at least twenty-five percent of the state's energy usage be derived from renewable sources by no later than 2012. The state should take affirmative action by using new technology to harvest the world's most readily available resource--the energy of the sea.

The World Energy Council has estimated that the world's waves have the potential to produce two terawatts per year, the equivalent of twice the world's electricity production. (8) While not all of this power can be harvested, preliminary surveys indicate that wave energy has a global potential of over 450,000 megawatts (MW), representing a market of more than $550 billion worldwide. …

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