Twenty seven marine and hydrokinetic energy projects have just been selected by the DOE (Department of Energy) and will receive a total of $37 million. The selected projects cover all phases of R & D, from the design of components to systems to develop prototypes and to conducting sea trials.

This is the largest ever federal funding allocated to this category of renewable energy, a sign that the U.S. continue to actively seeking new sources of supply. Marine and hydrokinetic energy was found to remain on the sidelines of a surge in favor of RES in the United States. Some initial projects, such as to put a turbine under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco had been abandoned for lack of adequate return on investment. At this stage, projects are often in the development phase, a demonstrator or pilot, with no real commercial deployment. In 2009, the installed capacity was less than 1 megawatt (MW) against 77.000 MW of classic hydropower.

The result of this relative lack of interest is that the United States are not well placed in the field, whether at the office level study or to the manufacturers and the contractors are obliged to call to skills of the Europeans, mainly British.

As evidenced by the appetite of some venture capitalists, who will have to get involved because the DOE funding is intended to leverage with private financiers, although the public ones remain above 50% at this point. Another sign of the current boom, FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) have sent 146 application files for authorization to operate a total capacity of 9,000 MW. The new impetus given by the DOE should result in an additional influx, with individual projects that generate about 1 MW (tidal turbines off the coast of the State of Washington).

The advantage as viewed by the electricity producers is in the fact that, although variable, the wave energy is relatively predictable (several days in advance), more than in the case of solar or wind power, which facilitates integration into the grid. As for tidal power, it has the advantage of being fairly constant throughout the year, thereby providing electricity into the grid (unlike conventional hydropower, typically used to provide “peak” needs). It could mean a boom in the sector if the selected projects prove conclusive. Some experts estimate that by 2025 the installed capacity in the United States could reach 200 GW.

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