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Untapped Ocean Currents Show Great Potential for Renewable Energy

The Gulf Stream—a massive and highly energetic ocean current which holds great potential for electric power generation and other renewable power sources—physically connects Florida with the United Kingdom. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Ocean Energy Technology recently accompanied Florida Governor Charlie Crist to the UK to formalize agreements on ocean energy research and development.

Officials from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and FAU’s Center for Ocean Energy Technology (COET) in the College of Engineering and Computer Science accompanied Florida Governor Charlie Crist on a recent visit to several universities and organizations in the United Kingdom to continue discussions, exchange information and formalize agreements in areas of clean ocean energy, environmental issues and climate change.

The FAU/UK trip was part of a statewide business development mission which included nearly 100 university and business leaders.

Last year, Florida and the UK signed a partnership agreement on global climate change, physically tying one to the other by the Gulf Stream—a massive ocean current of critical importance to the present climate and quality of life affecting each partner. FAU President Frank T. Brogan signed memorandums of understanding with Heriot-Watt University and the New & Renewable Energy Centre to exchange researchers, and technology and information on ocean energy and climate change, helping to pave the way for additional agreements with other universities and industry. FAU previously exercised an agreement with the University of Edinburgh to further develop collaboration on ocean energy research and technology.

“FAU is working closely with the British Consulate in Miami, UK Trade & Investment and our other UK partners to help us understand and develop guidance for global policy as it relates to ocean energy extraction,” said Brogan. “Furthermore, Florida and the UK are committed to increasing climate-friendly economic opportunities for our respective citizens, improving our public policies on reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases, exchanging expertise on research and technology, and increasing public awareness.”

At the core of the FAU/UK partnership is research being conducted by the COET. The COET was established in 2006 with a $5 million award from the Florida Technology, Research and Scholarship Board. Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature selected the COET to serve as a member of the newly-formed Florida Energy Systems Consortium, and this month, awarded the Center with an additional $8.75 million for research and development. The consortium was established by the Florida Legislature to bring together researchers, unique facilities and technology transfer and incubation programs in energy from state universities. Founding members of the consortium include FAU, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida and University of South Florida.

“Our Center for Ocean Energy Technology is focused on the ocean as a sustainable baseload energy research in two main forms: thermal energy associated with heat from the sun absorbed by the ocean; and mechanical energy associated with ocean currents,” said Susan Skemp, executive director of the COET, who was on the UK trip with Brogan and Dr. Frederick Driscoll, technical director of the COET.

Research at the COET covers a broad spectrum of areas which are necessary to enable the development of a sustainable ocean energy industry. The COET is initially focused on characterizing and evaluating available resources offshore in Florida in the form of a real-time instrumented ocean observatory. A lease application for the COET for an area offshore of Fort Lauderdale has been short-listed by the U.S. Minerals Management Service in a preliminary round of leasing available to ocean energy projects.

In cooperation with the offshore range, the COET will develop a variety of platforms that will allow technologies to be tested in situ for most of the development phases necessary to build up to commercial implementation. Moreover, the COET is working together with FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute to develop an integrated system approach towards environmental, ecological, resource and power system assessment, and risk avoidance to ensure that all elements related to harnessing open-ocean access energy research and development are addressed and understood.

“Currently, ocean energy is undeveloped compared to other conventional and renewable energy technologies,” said Driscoll. “While many single technology-centric efforts are underway around the world, there is no unifying infrastructure in the U.S. or abroad to support multi-faceted ocean energy research and development. Our Center is helping to bridge that gap.”

Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses strategically located along 150 miles of Florida's southeastern coastline. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts ten colleges: College of Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, the Barry Kaye College of Business, the College of Education, the College of Engineering & Computer Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Graduate College, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

Gisele Galoustian | Newswise Science News
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