Marine energy research is possible thanks to EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre)

All forms of marine energies (like tidal and wave power, marine current power, OTEC and osmotic power) are still in its infancy and need further development in order to gain competitivity and efficiency. Their potential in terms of amount of energy generated is huge, specially in some locations with high tides, waves or other special circumstances and the only thing preventing them to compete with the rest of energy sources is its technological development.

The way for the marine energies to deploy its potential is to receive investments either from public sector or private industries. In this way they will be able to advance and create the necessary R&D for them to create prototypes, improve current technological limitations and test new devices that harness better the energy from the waves or from the tides.

In order to solve this issue and facilitate the technological R&D to the industries in the field of marine energies, tidal and wave power, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has been created.

EMEC is a not for profit, private company established by several organisations (The Carbon Trust, Orkney Islands Council and Highland and Islands Enterprise Development Trust) to provide to the electricity converters and researchers with the opportunity to test full-scale grid-connected prototype devices in wave and tidal conditions. The organisation has a test research center focused on marine energy development based in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK.

The research center was established in 2003, in the excellent location of Northern Scotland, where strong tidal currents happens and grid connection and sheltered harbour facilities are available as well as a growing renewable, maritime and environmental expertise and interest exists within the local community. To date, around £30 million of public funding has been invested in the Centre by the owners and the Scottish Government, UK Government, Scottish Enterprise and the European Union.

EMEC has many clients taking advantage of their installations and testing prototypes and devices, some of them are big and important companies with interests in marine energy field such as: Alstom, Pelamis Wave Power, Bluewater, Aquamarine Power, Seatricity, DCNS (Openhydro), Atlantis, Voith and Wello Oy among others.

BIMEP (Biscay Marine Energy Platform) is a similar reasearch center, under construction in Northern Spain. When operation starts, it will provide WEC (Wave Energy Converter) manufacturers  with the opportunity to install and test their equipment in open sea conditions. The natural conditions of the Cantabrian sea are fabulous for that purposes.

UN declares the Decade of Sustainable Energy for all from 2014 to 2024

UN has declared unanimously the decade 2014 – 2024 as the “Decade for the Sustainable Energy for all” highlighting in this way the aspect of the sustainable energetic development for all the people of the world. UN reaffirms, with this resolution, its willingness to establish a sustainable energy for all, after the successful organisation of the International year of sustainable energy for all in 2012.

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The decade from 2014 to 2024 has been declared by UN as the Decade of Sustainable Energy for all. Picture from Dannyqu (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The objective of this declaration is to call attention from Governments and International Organisations to:

  • Increase the use of sustainable energy sources
  • Increase the energy efficiency
  • Achieve universal access to energy
  • Move forward in the development of the renewable technologies and
  • Moderate the use of conventional energy sources (fossil fuels, nuclear, etc)

All of these measures aim to satisfy the growing energy demand and reduce the environmental impact.

UN initiative is noted by the relevance given to the universal access to the energy. Energy is a key element necessary to develop and increase any economy. Without energy anything can be produced and the lifestyle is severely affected.

82 developing countries from Africa and Middle East, America and Caribbean, Asia-Pacific and Europe have joined the initiative and will implement actions during this decade. 

UN has established through its programme SE4ALL a number of high impact actions and opportunities that have been identified as having significant potential to advance the main objectives of the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. Approximately 50 high impact actions opportunities have been identified to date. Some examples include:

  • Advanced lighting and appliance efficiency
  • Building energy efficiency
  • Energy and women’s health
  • Finance
  • Modern cooking appliances and fuels
  • Off-Grid lighting and charging
  • Phase out of gas flaring
  • Sustainable bioenergy
  • Sustainable energy for island economies and
  • Vehicle fuel efficiency

Top 7 examples of renewable energy sources

Renewable energy sources are those obtained from inexhaustible natural resources on a human scale. This can be caused either because the sources are limitless (the Sun, wind, etc.) or because the natural resource has the capacity to regenerate itself naturally as it happens with the tides, waves, etc. The top 7 examples of renewable energy sources are shown in the following list:

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Forest is one of the largest biomass energy source to date. Picture from Leo-setä (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

1. Solar Power

There are several ways to harness the solar radiation to converted into energy, among them, there are 3 very relevant which are; solar photovoltaics, solar thermal power and concentrated solar power (CSP) or thermoelectric solar power. Different applications can be used for each one of the solar energy sources, for instance, photovoltaics can be used to generate electricity while solar thermal power can be used to heat up water.

2. Wind Power

Wind power is a renewable energy source which uses wind mills or wind turbines to produce energy. This type of renewable energy is easily recognisable, normally installed in groups of windmills in the same location called a wind farm. There are wind mills with an output power raging from a few kW to a MW.

3. Hydropower

Hydropower uses the energy from the moving or running water to obtain electricity. This form of renewable energy source exists worldwide and it has been used since the 4th millennium BC. In the past, water wheels and watermills were built, nowadays, technological advances have moved to enclosed turbines which produce the electricity.

4. Marine Power

The exploitation, use or application of the energy carried by waters (oceans, marine currents, salinity, etc.) is called marine power. There are several types of renewable energy sources within the marines energies such as; wave power, osmotic power, marine current or OTEC (Ocean thermal Energy Conversion).

5. Tidal Power

Tidal power may be considered a marine energy as well, but due to their relevance, it is usually classified as a separate renewable energy source.

Tidal energy harness the movement produced in the water to generate electricity. It is a well know renewable energy source, especially in countries like France, UK or Canada where it is widely used. There are different methods to generate tidal power, such as tidal streams or currents, barrages, lagoons and Dynamic Tidal Power  (DTP).

6. Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is one of the less known of the renewable energy sources. Its energy comes from the internal energy stored in the Earth. In 2010, 30% of the geothermal energy of the world was produced in United States, most of which production was located in a geothermal field in California.

7. Bioenergy

The energy made available from biological material is called bioenergy. Depending on its use or origin, the bioenergy has different names. If the energy is used as fuel, then it is called biofuel as well and if what is obtained from the biological material is gas, then it is called biogas. Other times it can be called biomass if it´s derived from living, or recently living organisms, normally wood, which remains the largest biomass energy source to date.

Renewable energy cooperatives in Europe, successful examples

There are hundreds of sustainable energy cooperative corporations in Europe, which produce, distribute and sell sustainable and renewable energy such as solar, thermal, geothermal and biomass energies as well as water, wind and tide powers among others.  The corporations exist in almost all the European Union countries, some of which are integrated in REScoop.

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Windmills installed in the country side, producing clean energy. Picture from Michael Gil (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Rescoop stands for Renewable Energy Sources COOperative. It is a group of citizens that work together in the field of sustainable energy concentrating in developing new production, selling green energy or providing services to new initiative.

One of these associations is Ecopower, which was founded in Belgium 1991. Its objective is to raise money by selling shares and invest the capital in green energy projects.  The shareholders may receive maximum of 6% of the profits on yearly basis. At the moment Ecopower has about 47,000 shareholders. The corporation sends the generated energy to Flemish electricity network and often public administrations purchase the electricity.  Their energy generation is based on bio oil, wind power and solar power. The objective of the organization is not to maximize the profits but instead create added value for the society and sustainable employment.

Similar corporations can also be found in Germany. For example Windfang eG was created 1992.  The society is exclusively run by women who manage the hydraulics, wind mills and sun panels for their partners.

Som Energia is another example of renewable energy corporation in Europe. The association was started in Girona (north east of Spain) 2011 and it focuses on the commercialization of the  sustainable energy by investing in 100% green energy projects. Currently the society has more than 16,000 associates who have paid 100EUR each in order to have an access to web consultation and competitive energy rates.

Finally to illustrate a French case, we look into the history of Enercoop.

In 2004 this green and solidary electricity supplier was launched in France. Enercoop stands for decentralization of the energy production in the market where semi-private EDF (Électricité de France) is almost completely monopolizing the production of the energy.  The sources of the green energy are hydraulics, bio gas, mini wind power and solar power. Today Enercoop has more than 11,000 private associates and 7,000 company members that benefit from the sustainable energy at competitive prices.

Why is it necessary to develop the Third Industrial Revolution?

The Third Industrial Revolution is an idea originated by the American economist and sociologist Jeremy Rifkin and developed in his book “The Third Industrial Revolution”. This idea has been supported by many organizations worldwide, among them, the European Parliament has made a Declaration requesting to the European Institutions and Governments to establish a green hydrogen economy based on renewable energies and the development of a Third Industrial Revolution in Europe.

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Textile industry is today an emblematic industry in many of the developed countries with only a few direct employees compared to what it represented for the previous industrial revolutions. Picture from Pedro Ribeiro Simões (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

The first industrial revolution was initiated with the introduction of the steam engine during the second half of the 18th century in Great Britain, shaking up the current economy, based on that moment on agriculture and commerce. Later on, in the first decade of the 20th century, the electrical communication and the internal combustion engine produced the second industrial revolution basing the economic growth on fossil fuels. The outcome of the second industrial revolution is the globalization.

The Third Industrial Revolution will help to develop a more sustainable economy, will generate many benefits to the present society such as the creation of numerous jobs (today not existing), will manage all the new arising technologies and will help, among other benefits, to reduce the pollution levels worldwide, due to the use of renewable and sustainable energy sources. The reduction of the greenhouse emissions and the slow-down of the global warming are another causes of this new industrialization.

The consolidation of the Third Industrial Revolution through the massive use of renewable energies, fuel cells (basically hydrogen fuel cells) and the Internet communication will benefit people’s life and will increase the wealth of the planet, due to the universality and accessibility to these resources worldwide. This situation will, of course, generate more business, services and products, as it happened with the previous two industrial revolutions. We only have to think on how much our lives have changed thanks to the inventions and new products developed during 19th and 20th centuries.

Some of the benefits of this new industrialization range from lower the energy costs to secure the energy supply since the sustainable and renewable energy resources are basically free and inexhaustible (in a reasonable period of millions of years). Currently the situation is the opposite, our economy is based on fossil fuels which resources are limited and prices are every day higher.