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Press Releases :: December 3, 2009

Members, Witnesses Discuss Harnessing Energy from Waves, Currents, and Stored Heat in Oceans

(Washington, DC) – Today, House Committee on Science and Technology’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee held a hearing to explore the role of the federal government and industry in developing technologies related to marine and hydrokinetic energy generation.  These technologies include wave, current (tidal, ocean and river), ocean thermal energy generation devices and related environmental monitoring technologies.

“Studies have estimated that approximately 10 percent of U.S. national electricity demand may be met through energy generation from river in-stream sites, tidal in-stream sites, and wave generation,” said Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA).  “This projection does not even include the potential energy from ocean thermal energy, ocean currents or other distributed energy generation from man-made water systems.”
 
Interest in marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies is growing. As the U.S. population is growing fastest in coastal regions, MHK technologies could provide an important source of energy where it is needed most.
 
However, the technologies need a considerable amount of RD&D before commercialization. Experts in the industry expect that MHK technologies will follow a similar path as wind turbines. MHK technologies today are in a position similar to where wind technologies were a few decades ago, with the advantage that significant achievement in efficiency enhancements and cost reductions during the past 30 years in the wind industry are transferable to MHK technologies.
 
“With few exceptions, marine and hydrokinetic technologies will need to be competitive in the marketplace if they are to be widely deployed,” said Baird. “The Subcommittee is looking to learn about the current and projected costs of electricity generated from marine and hydrokinetic technologies, and how a more robust federal program might help in bringing those costs down.”
 
The Congress first authorized significant research on these technologies in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140). Since then the Department of Energy has built a modest portfolio of marine energy RD&D activities within the Wind and Hydropower program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This program has received a small amount of funding and issued a variety of small awards to fulfill its statutory obligations.
 
For more information, please see the Committee’s website.
 
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