Written by R.E. Lord


Wind, waves and seaweed could supply a substantial amount of Europe’s fuel needs within the next 40 years, according to a report presented at a European Science Foundation (ESF) conference in Belgium.

The vast and largely untapped potential energy locked in the world’s oceans needs only will and research to be loosed for the benefit of Europe – along with a massive amount of funding, government or otherwise – and could supply up to 50 percent of Europe’s electricity needs by 2050, the report claims.

These “marine renewable resources” include offshore wind power (in which Google recently made a big investment in the U.S.), the movement of waves, tides and oceans, and algae (seaweed) for biofuels.

“These natural abundant sources offer a significant contribution towards energy supply and security, and to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases,” the ESF’s Marine Board reported at the EurOCEAN 2010 conference, held last week in Ostend. “Marine renewable energy needs specific, sustained support for research and development to foster innovation, and also crucially develop appropriate environmental monitoring protocols."

Though still a young field, the exploitation of marine renewables represents a potential boon for researchers and industry, claims Marine Board Chair Lars Horn.

"Marine renewable energy is in its infancy, but it has remarkable potential," Horn, from the Research Council of Norway, said in a statement. "The target of 50% is ambitious, but achievable - we just need research, industry and policy to come together. As well as cutting carbon dioxide emissions and their impact on the environment, investing in marine renewable energy would create jobs in an innovative sector."

The report calls for the creation of a “European offshore energy grid,” according to the ESF, and recommends steps Europe can take if it wants to hit the ambitious 2050 target, including:

* Specific funding through the European Commission
* Future joint research programming, with co-ordinated research between industry and universities
* A comprehensive assessment of all the marine renewable resources in Europe
* Developing appropriate environmental monitoring protocols
* Training and education to provide a skilled workforce to supply what would become a growing sector
* A governance framework based on developing and consolidating supportive policies such as a European Energy Market, providing test sites and a European offshore grid interconnector

For more information: http://www.esf.org/media-centre/press-releases/ext-single-news.html?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=630&cHash=3d1ac9d3c1e46567f0806956c4dcc36e