Given that oil reserves (≈ 1400 billion barrels) can satisfy world-wide demand (> 30 billion barrels/year) for at most another 50 years with natural gas and coal reserves enough for at most 120 and 100 years respectively, it would seem sensible to explore and determine the potential of marine renewable energy resources as additional alternatives to our fossil-fuels-based economy. OTEC and wave energy conversion (WEC) devices, moored nearshore, could provide electricity, via submarine power cables, to land stations. Grazing OTEC plants, deployed throughout the tropical oceans, could generate energy-intensive product like ammonia or hydrogen to be used as the fuel of the future.
Our analysis indicates that the OTEC resource could be used for the sustainable generation of at least 80% of the energy required by humanity. What is pending, however, is a realistic determination of the costs and the potential global environmental impact and this can only be accomplished by deploying and subsequently monitoring operations with the first generation of OTEC plants.
Under its Clean Energy Initiative the State of Hawai’i (SOH), for example, has set the goal of 100% clean energy by 2045 (www.hawaiicleanenergyinitiative.org). OTEC and WEC devices ought to be part of the mix of renewable energy technologies required to meet this goal. To facilitate implementation SOH must find ways to offer long-term pricing certainty to these nascent technologies and to reduce the time required to obtaining commercial licenses & permits from the current estimate of as much as 5-years to something closer to 1-year. Ideally, the SOH should also provide a funding mechanism to assist renewable energy developers with start-up and installation costs.