By Judith Vidaver and Ed Oberweiser
The Ocean Protection Coalition opposes plans to industrialize the ocean by energy extraction. The ocean is the most important component in the earth’s life support system. We have already compromised its ability to function with pollution, overfishing, habitat destruction and, now, global warming. We agree that we urgently need to develop carbon free energy sources.
However, the ocean, stressed as it is, isn’t the place to get them. A panel of scientists, convened by the state of Oregon, concluded that wave power projects may affect water circulation and currents. They may also reduce wave action and disrupt sediment transport, affecting beaches. Cables could entangle marine species, such as turtles and whales, and emit electromagnetic radiation.
Migration paths of whales and other marine mammals would be disrupted. Noise produced by these devices could be harmful to marine animals and annoying to humans. These gigantic machines, nearly 500 feet long and weighing nearly 800 tons, would be painted bright orange and lighted at night, degrading wild and scenic ocean vistas. Our Mendocino coast is recognized as one of the four most productive marine ecosystems in the world and is a major visitor destination. Lost tourist dollars would far exceed any income generated by the projects being proposed for our coast.
Installations of these machines are proposed directly over the San Andreas fault anchored in our crumbly substrate. There would be no quick and easy way to retrieve them If they break loose in an earthquake or during one of our fierce storms. The global warming emergency demands immediate actions if we are to avoid the worst effects. This threat is so extreme that we can’t afford to waste time or money on a technology that already has already failed in Portugal.
There the Pelamis P-1 device is likely to be written off by Pelamis due to design faults after a chaotic period that saw it towed in for repairs after just a few weeks in the water in contradiction to company claims at the time. A trio of devices is currently sitting forlornly in a dock near Porto.
The tow-in of the prototype, which coincided with the bankruptcy of Australian-owned renewables giant B&B, caused considerable embarrassment to Portuguese politicians who had declared the project the key component of the country’s future energy plans. It also angered local companies developing their own marine-energy projects.
However Pelamis is trying to bring the technology back. Scottish wave-energy pioneer Pelamis Wave Power has been given a lifeline in Portugal despite its first commercial prototype, the much-vaunted P-1, now looking set to be scrapped after a series of technical failures and the collapse of its majority shareholder, Babcock & Brown (B&B).
Portuguese energy giant EDP and compatriot engineering firm Efacechave decided to take over the majority stake in the project in Portugal, opening the way for a second prototype to be tested in the country’s offshore waters using the infrastructure built for the P-1.
Now Green Wave is trying for a new permit for a wave energy system off the coast of Mendocino. This attempt will not be stopped by the MLPA. We Mendocino Coast citizens must stop this dangerous and inefficient technology which will forever deface our beautiful coastline and destroy the economic potential that the natural beauty of our coast affords us.
This is the wrong approach. We need to reduce our use of fossil fuels and focus all our efforts on proven sources of non-carbon energy, such as land-based solar, wind and geothermal. The effort to deploy wave power will stretch far into the future because any ocean industrialization is highly controversial. Controversy delays projects and adds to the cost.
Also, so far it’s proving to be unfeasible because the ocean is such a challenging environment to work in. The ocean is the most critical element in the amelioration of global warming. It is already stressed to the maximum with marine ecosystems collapsing all over the planet. We can’t afford any more experiments that might result in unintended consequences. We can’t reverse destruction of the productivity of our local ocean. Arrays of energy extracting machines could disrupt the natural processes upon which much of the western Pacific depends.