How Obama and McCain voted on environmental issues in 2007

How did Barack Obama and John McCain vote on environmental and clean energy issues in 2007?

By Glenn Maltais

According to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), Obama did OK, McCain, not so much.

Even though both presidential candidates are rigorously touting their environmental credentials, when it comes to walking the talk, the difference between Barack Obama and John McCain appears to be significant.

The national environmental scorecard, a ranking system that evaluates individual U.S. legislators based on their votes on environmental issues, highlighted 15 key votes last year–all of which senator McCain missed, resulting in a 0% score.

It is not uncommon for Presidential candidates to suffer from absenteeism during hectic election campaigns, or to miss roll call votes while being away from Washington for prolonged periods. Nevertheless, Obama managed to only miss four environmental votes, resulting in a 67% score – not great – but a whole lot better than 0%.

As scored by the LCV, McCain’s lifetime average is 24%, well below Obama’s 86%. Granted, this is not the greatest of comparisons, considering McCain has been in the Senate for a few decades, and Obama, a few years…but still, 24%? Not cool.

Out of the 15 votes where McCain chose to be elsewhere, the one that upset environmental groups the most occurred when an important piece of legislation fell one “yes” vote short of passage. The legislation involved tax incentives for renewable energy (set to expire December 31st, 2008) and repealed unnecessary tax breaks for the oil and gas industries.

Unfortunately, when it comes to what is arguably two the most important issues of our time, energy and the environment, McCain’s “straight talk express” may sound like it’s headed for greener pastures, but it appears to be circling the current administration’s big oil wagons. And, that leaves many environmentalists and those striving to usher in a new [clean, domestic] energy era, seeing red.

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As Biomass Power Rises, a Wood-Fired Plant Is Planned in Texas

The city of Austin, Tex., approved plans on Thursday for a huge plant that will burn waste wood to make electricity, the latest sign of rising interest in a long-dormant form of renewable energy.

When completed in 2012, the East Texas plant will be able to generate 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 75,000 homes. That is small by the standards of coal-fired power plants, but plants fueled by wood chips, straw and the like — organic materials collectively known as biomass — have rarely achieved such scale.

Austin Energy, a city-owned utility, has struck a $2.3 billion, 20-year deal to be the sole purchaser of electricity from Nacogdoches Power, the company that will build the plant for an undisclosed sum. On Thursday, Austin’s City Council unanimously approved the deal, which would bring the Austin utility closer to its goal of getting 30 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

“We saw this plant as very important because it gives us a diversity of fuels,” said Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy. “Unlike solar and wind, we can run this plant night or day, summer or winter.”

More than 100 biomass power plants are connected to the electrical grid in the United States, according to Bill Carlson, former chairman of USA Biomass, an industry group. Most are in California or the Northeast, but some of the new ones are under development in the South, a region with a large wood pulp industry.

The last big wave of investment in the biomass industry came during the 1980s and early 1990s. Interest is rising again as states push to include more renewable power in their mix of electricity generation.

Last week, Georgia Power asked state regulators to approve the conversion of a coal plant into a 96-megawatt biomass plant. An additional 50-megawatt plant in East Texas is expected to be under construction by September.

Mike Whiting, chief executive of Decker Energy International, a developer and owner of four biomass plants around the country, estimates 15 to 20 new biomass plants are proposed in the Southeast, though not all will be built. The region is, he said, “the best part of the U.S. for growing trees.”

In California, which has the most biomass plants in the country, momentum is reviving after years of decline. The number of biomass plants has dropped to fewer than 30, from 48 in the early 1990s, because of the closing of many sawmills and the energy crisis early this decade, said Phil Reese of the California Biomass Energy Alliance. Six to eight of the mothballed plants are gearing up to restart, Mr. Reese said, helping California meet its renewable energy goals.

At least three biomass plants have been proposed in Connecticut, and another three in Massachusetts — though last week one of these, a $200 million, 50-megawatt biomass plant proposed for the western part of the state, experienced a regulatory setback because of concerns about truck traffic.

Some environmental groups have opposed the Nacogdoches plant. Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter, said the plant was not “as clean as it could be” in terms of emissions. He also criticized the lack of a competitive bidding process to build the plant.

Pulp and paper companies operating in wooded East Texas have also opposed the plant, which will require a giant amount of wood residue — one million tons each year. They are concerned that there is not enough wood for their industry and the plant. But Tony Callendrello, vice president of Nacogdoches Power, said the company would use only discarded forest residues, mill waste and the like.

“We have no need — and no intention — to go after anything that the forest-products companies would be using in their production,” he said.

Solar Thermal Power Coming to a Boil

Solar Thermal Power Coming to a Boil

By Jonathan G. Dorn
Earth Policy Institute

After emerging in 2006 from 15 years of hibernation, the solar thermal power industry experienced a surge in 2007, with 100 megawatts of new capacity coming online worldwide. During the 1990s, cheap fossil fuels, combined with a loss of state and federal incentives, put a damper on solar thermal power development. However, recent increases in energy prices, escalating concerns about global climate change, and fresh economic incentives are renewing interest in this technology.

Considering that the energy in sunlight reaching the earth in just 70 minutes is equivalent to annual global energy consumption, the potential for solar power is virtually unlimited. With concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) capacity expected to double every 16 months over the next five years, worldwide installed CSP capacity will reach 6,400 megawatts in 2012—14 times the current capacity. (See data.)

Unlike solar photovoltaics (PVs), which use semiconductors to convert sunlight directly into electricity, CSP plants generate electricity using heat. Much like a magnifying glass, reflectors focus sunlight onto a fluid-filled vessel. The heat absorbed by the fluid is used to generate steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity. Power generation after sunset is possible by storing excess heat in large, insulated tanks filled with molten salt. Since CSP plants require high levels of direct solar radiation to operate efficiently, deserts make ideal locations.

Two big advantages of CSP over conventional power plants are that the electricity generation is clean and carbon-free and, since the sun is the energy source, there are no fuel costs. Energy storage in the form of heat is also significantly cheaper than battery storage of electricity, providing CSP with an economical means to overcome intermittency and deliver dispatchable power.

The United States and Spain are leading the world in the development of solar thermal power, with a combined total of over 5,600 megawatts of new capacity expected to come online by 2012. Representing over 90 percent of the projected new capacity by 2012, the output from these plants would be enough to meet the electrical needs of more than 1.7 million homes.

The largest solar thermal power complex in operation today is the Solar Electricity Generating Station in the Mojave Desert in California. Coming online between 1985 and 1991, the 354-megawatt complex has been producing enough power for 100,000 homes for almost two decades. In June 2007, the 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One plant became the first multi-megawatt commercial CSP plant to come online in the United States in 16 years.

Today, more than a dozen new CSP plants are being planned in the United States, with some 3,100 megawatts expected to come online by 2012. (See data.) Some impressive CSP projects in the planning stages include the 553-megawatt Mojave Solar Park in California, the 500-megawatt Solar One and 300-megawatt Solar Two projects in California, a 300-megawatt facility in Florida, and the 280-megawatt Solana plant in Arizona.

In Spain, the first commercial-scale CSP plant to begin operation outside the United States since the mid-1980s came online in 2007: the 11-megawatt PS10 tower. The tower is part of the 300-megawatt Solúcar Platform, which, when completed in 2013, will contain ten CSP plants and produce enough electricity to supply 153,000 homes while preventing 185,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually. All told, more than 60 plants are in the pipeline in Spain, with 2,570 megawatts expected to come online by 2012.

Economic and policy incentives are partly responsible for the renewed interest in CSP. The incentives in the United States include a 30-percent federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar through the end of 2008, which has good prospects for being extended, and Renewable Portfolio Standards in 26 states. California requires that utilities get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010, and Nevada requires 20 percent by 2015, with at least 5 percent from solar power. The primary incentive in Spain is a feed-in tariff that guarantees that utilities will pay power producers €0.26 (40¢) per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated by CSP plants for 25 years.

In the southwestern United States, the cost of electricity from CSP plants (including the federal ITC) is roughly 13–17¢ per kilowatt-hour, meaning that CSP with thermal storage is competitive today with simple-cycle natural gas-fired power plants. The U.S. Department of Energy aims to reduce CSP costs to 7–10¢ per kilowatt-hour by 2015 and to 5–7¢ per kilowatt-hour by 2020, making CSP competitive with fossil-fuel-based power sources.

Outside the United States and Spain, regulatory incentives in France, Greece, Italy, and Portugal are expected to stimulate the installation of 3,200 megawatts of CSP capacity by 2020. China anticipates building 1,000 megawatts by that time. Other countries developing CSP include Australia, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. (See map.)

Using CSP plants to power electric vehicles could further reduce CO2 emissions and provide strategic advantages by relaxing dependence on oil. In Israel, a tender issued by the Ministry for National Infrastructures for the construction of CSP plants and a 19.4¢ per kilowatt-hour feed-in tariff for solar power systems are sparking interest in developing up to 250 megawatts of CSP in the Negev Desert. This would produce enough electricity to run the 100,000 electric cars that Project Better Place, a company focused on building an electric personal transportation system, is planning to put on Israeli roads by the end of 2010.

A study by Ausra, a solar energy company based in California, indicates that over 90 percent of fossil fuel–generated electricity in the United States and the majority of U.S. oil usage for transportation could be eliminated using solar thermal power plants—and for less than it would cost to continue importing oil. The land requirement for the CSP plants would be roughly 15,000 square miles (38,850 square kilometers, the equivalent of 15 percent of the land area of Nevada). While this may sound like a large tract, CSP plants use less land per equivalent electrical output than large hydroelectric dams when flooded land is included, or than coal plants when factoring in land used for coal mining. Another study, published in Scientific American in January 2008, proposes using CSP and PV plants to produce 69 percent of U.S. electricity and 35 percent of total U.S. energy, including transportation, by 2050.

CSP plants on less than 0.3 percent of the desert areas of North Africa and the Middle East could generate enough electricity to meet the needs of these two regions plus the European Union. Realizing this, the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation—an initiative of The Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation, and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan—conceived the DESERTEC Concept in 2003. This plan to develop a renewable energy network to transmit power to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa calls for 100,000 megawatts of CSP to be built throughout the Middle East and North Africa by 2050. Electricity delivery to Europe would occur via direct current transmission cables across the Mediterranean. Taking the lead in making the concept a reality, Algeria plans to build a 3,000-kilometer cable between the Algerian town of Adrar and the German city of Aachen to export 6,000 megawatts of solar thermal power by 2020.

If the projected annual growth rate of CSP through 2012 is maintained to 2020, global installed CSP capacity would exceed 200,000 megawatts—equivalent to 135 coal-fired power plants. With billions of dollars beginning to flow into the CSP industry and U.S. restrictions on carbon emissions imminent, CSP is primed to reach such capacity.

Copyright © 2008 Earth Policy Institute

Solution to high energy costs could lie underground

Sandia’s Georgianne Peek aids Iowa with compressed air energy storage project

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories News Release: researcher Georgianne Peek thinks a possible solution to high energy costs lies underground. And it’s not coal or oil.
Researchers Steve Bauer and Georgianne Peak
Sandia researchers Steve Bauer
and Georgianne Peek look at equipment that will be used to analyze core samples from the potential Iowa aquifer compressed air energy storage site. The data will provide necessary fundamental information used for the design and performance of the underground air storage vessel. (Photo by Chris Burroughs)

It’s compressed air energy storage (CAES).

“Until recently energy has been relatively inexpensive. But now prices are rising dramatically, and we need solutions,” Peek says. “CAES and other storage technologies are not the only answer to our energy needs, but they can be an important part of the solution.”

CAES facilities function like big batteries. Electric motors drive compressors that compress air into an underground geologic formation during off-peak electric use times like evenings and weekends. Then, when electricity is needed most during high-demand times, the precompressed air is used in modified combustion turbines to generate electricity. Natural gas or other fossil fuels are still required to run the turbines, but the process is more efficient. This method uses up to 50 percent less natural gas than standard electricity production.

While the concept of compressed air energy storage is more than 30 years old, only two such plants exist — a 17-year-old facility in McIntosh, Ala., located about 40 miles north of Mobile, and a 30-year-old plant in Germany, both in caverns in salt domes. A third is being developed near Des Moines, Iowa, in an aquifer. In addition, the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and several other U.S. utilities are considering CAES to help mitigate potential problems associated with the high penetrations of wind generation in their systems.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) laboratory.

Iowa project management

Sandia is currently managing DOE money to support the design of the Iowa facility, called the Iowa Stored Energy Park (ISEP). Peek is the project manager. Developers include more than 100 municipal utilities in Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas.

ISEP will be a nominal 268 megawatt/13,400 megawatts per hour CAES plant with about 50 hours of storage. It will utilize the abundant wind generation already in Iowa to charge the plant. When ISEP is up and running, it could account for 20 percent of the energy used in a year at a typical municipal Iowa utility and could save cities and their utilities as much as $5 million each year in purchased energy.

Compressor illustrationPeek says the Iowa project is pretty far along and is expected to be operational by 2012.

“One of the most important tasks that has to be done before a CAES facility can be built is to find a geologic formation that will support it,” Peek says. “ISEP developers are 95 percent sure that they have the right formation, based on the seismic testing at the site, computer modeling, and data from a sister formation.”


Sandia to study core samples

This summer multiple core samples from the potential Iowa aquifer CAES site will be taken and sent to Sandia for analysis by a team led by Steve Bauer. The analysis will include collection and assessment of the geologic, hydrologic, and rock physics data in the geomechanics laboratory. The data will provide necessary fundamental information used for the design and performance of the underground air storage vessel.

In 2000 Bauer did similar analysis of rock mechanics of a limestone mine in Norton, Ohio, that was being studied for a potential CAES facility. That project is still under development.

PNM analyzes CAES

Peek says that PNM is also studying the application of CAES in its New Mexico service territory to help manage its current renewable energy portfolio and foster the growth of renewable energy sources.

“Wind often blows at night,” she says. “As electricity is produced at night from the wind farms, it could be stored and eventually make its way into PNM’s transmission lines during periods of higher need.”

CAES technology development can trace its roots to the early 1960s when evaluation of gas turbine technology for power production began. The technology gained momentum during the next decade due to its promising fuel efficiency and response capabilities to provide load-following and peaking power support.

Now utilities are starting to tie CAES technology to wind power — first with the Iowa plant and soon with possible facilities through the nation, Peek says.

“The wind blows in some areas when electricity is not needed or where the transmission system can’t accept all of the energy,” she says. “Storage enables delivery of the off-peak energy that has been saved in storage to be delivered when it is needed most or has the highest value. Thus, more renewable energy can be delivered than might be possible without storage.”


Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Chris Burroughs, 505-844-0948, coburro@sandia.gov

McCain holds off backing ‘Gang of 10’ energy plan

As reported on The Hill by

Republican Sen. John McCain is not ready to embrace a bipartisan energy plan that could complicate his presidential campaign if Democrats advance the bill weeks before the November elections.

The bill is being drafted by some of his closest allies, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and offers a compromise on the roiling issue of offshore drilling.

Yet Tucker Bounds, a McCain campaign spokesman, said the Arizona senator is waiting to see legislative language before taking a position.

If McCain opposes the bill, it could appear that he is standing in the way of a compromise to soaring gasoline prices.

But if he backs it, McCain could cloud a clear distinction between the two parties on the issue that Republicans believe can swing the elections.

“John McCain would prefer and would continue to urge members of Congress to take his all-of-the-above approach to solving the country’s energy crisis,” which includes repealing the country’s decades-long ban on drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf, Bounds said.

For Democrats, backing the bill could mean infuriating environmental groups that say opening up protected areas to new drilling is a dangerous practice. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has asked his staff to work with aides to the leaders of the “Gang of 10” — Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) — as they draft legislative language.

Modeled after the 2005 Gang of 14 that averted a partisan meltdown over judicial nominees, the Gang of 10 — consisting of five Republican and five Democratic senators — last week announced a broad package of tax credits for renewable energy, a large investment in ramping up the use of cleaner-burning vehicles and a boost in developing coal-to-liquid-fueled plants.

Instead of allowing all coastal states the option to drill, as McCain and most Republicans have advocated, the proposal would allow the state legislatures of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to decide whether to allow drilling at least 50 miles off of their respective coasts. It also could open additional acreage in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, a hot-button issue in the swing state of Florida.

“This is an uphill fight, but this is what I strongly believe needs to be done,” Conrad said in a phone interview.

For weeks, Republicans have used offshore drilling to put Democrats on the defensive, seeking to capitalize on public outrage over $4-a-gallon gasoline. And a group of House Republicans has stayed in Washington for the first week of recess to make speeches in the adjourned chamber about the need for more domestic drilling.

But the bipartisan proposal could offer Democrats a way out.

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), the Democratic presidential candidate, immediately issued a statement praising the plan, and pointed to its call to repeal tax breaks for oil companies.

Senior GOP aides say the plan’s inclusion of the repeal of tax breaks is a non-starter, and they say the bill does not go far enough to expand drilling.

While Obama said he is “skeptical” that more drilling will lower gas prices, he told reporters Aug. 2 that he’s “open” to a “genuine bipartisan compromise in which I have to accept some things I like or don’t like.”

Republicans called his comments a flip-flop, but Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a member of the Gang of 10, said in an interview that Obama recognizes the debate “as a give-and-take process.”

After Obama’s comments, Reid sounded optimistic this week on a conference call that the bill could lead to a bipartisan deal in September.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said his boss is still reviewing the plan but has not taken a position.

U.S. Energy Policy Takes Center Stage in the Presidential Campaign

By Glenn Maltais

Energy is the common thread running through nearly every aspect of our individual and communal lives; interweaving energy, economic, trade, agricultural, environmental, domestic, security, and foreign policies, inseparably linking one to the next. Therefore, it is no coincidence energy is at the epicenter of unprecedented challenges facing America today, challenges in the form of fossil fuel & foreign oil dependence.

Each trip to the gas station or grocery store reminds us the economic implications of our energy policies are as varied as they are profound. In fact, a study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimates that over the last 30 years, oil market turmoil has cost the U.S. economy over 7 trillion dollars. Not surprisingly, each economic recession over the last 40 years has been preceded by a substantial increase in the cost of a barrel of oil.

A less known energy related expenditure of our tax dollars is the 40 billion+ spent each year on (non-combat) military operations to protect strategic Middle East oil producing countries and oil distribution channels. In addition, to the detriment of a litany of domestic programs, the US is borrowing hundreds of billions to finance combat operations and infrastructure rebuilding in the Middle East. A Nobel Prize winning economist has estimated the overall cost of the desert storm and the current Iraq conflict will far exceed $1 trillion.

The consequences of our energy policies transcend political persuasion, whereas the truth lies in historical fact. For decades America’s pursuit of energy security has been the primary factor driving political and military policies in the Middle East. These [energy driven] policies toward this region have acted as a catalyst for terrorist activities intended to harm America, its interests and allies.

Yet, not unlike how many of us take health for granted until a problem arises, when it comes to energy; we flick a switch, adjust a thermostat, turn a key, and anticipate the result without thought to underlying cause or effect.

It is when we are deprived of energy, that its import permeates our consciousness. Albeit for most a temporary awakening, at this level of thinking one comes to realize how maximizing alternate & renewable energy technologies can benefit all-of-mankind in ways far beyond that of the automobile, computer or world wide web, as anyone living in a 3rd world country without access to energy can attest.

In placing public interest before special interests via a long-term energy policy committed to developing and deploying clean alternate energy technologies (while helping developing countries do likewise via investment capital and technology exportation) the U.S. can fill a humanitarian and global leadership void which terror organizations and extremist governments prey upon – thereby curtailing the spread of anti-Americanism and terrorism.

Energy is the precursor for economic development and social progress. For many disadvantaged 3rd world countries the missing catalyst for poverty alleviation, economic development and social progress is access to affordable, regional energy technologies.

Utilizing America’s scientific, technical, and entrepreneurial drive, combined with a sense of national purpose and determination; we can not only realize energy independence within our own borders, but also insure a more balanced energy supply around the world – leading the way to a cleaner more prosperous and secure planet for all its inhabitants.

From economic prosperity, homeland security, foreign relations, global climate stability, to alleviating poverty and terrorism, for better or worse, all roads intersect at America’s Next Energy Policy.

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The Next Generation of Alternative Energy

Venture capitalists flirt with solar thermal, algae, and wave power

Posted July 25, 2008

Now that alternative energy is the new darling of Silicon Valley, investors are pumping cash into a raft of obscure technologies, from wave power to algae fuel. Despite the sluggish economy, alternative-energy start-ups received a record $2 billion in venture capital funding in the second quarter of 2008, a 58 percent increase from a year earlier, according to Cleantech Group, a market research firm. Today, clean technology—which includes alternative energy producers—accounts for 20 percent of all venture capital funding, up from just 1 percent in 2001, says John Balbach, a Cleantech managing partner. “Silicon Valley is going through yet another transformation,” he says. Here are three technologies attracting interest:

Solar thermal. Think of solar thermal as the “other” solar power. Unlike photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight directly into energy, this technology—also called concentrated solar power—uses mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on a liquid that turns to steam and powers a turbine. This relatively simple process holds major advantages over silicon cells, which produce energy only when the sun is shining. Using molten salt and other materials, solar-thermal plants can store energy for several hours after sundown. Plants can also burn other fuels, such as natural gas, when it’s dark or cloudy. In the Mojave Desert, FPL Group operates the world’s largest concentrated solar generation station, which was built more than 20 years ago. Driven by state mandates requiring utilities to produce a portion of electricity from renewable sources, a new generation of solar-thermal plants is on the way. In the second quarter, solar-thermal companies raised a record $371 million in financing, according to Cleantech. Mainstream adoption of solar thermal may not be far off: Cambridge, Mass., consultant Emerging Energy Research calls it “the fastest-growing, utility-scale renewable energy alternative after wind power” and estimates that $20 billion will be spent on projects through 2013.

Pond scum power. The hunt is on for renewable fuels that won’t compete with food crops. A promising contender is algae, which are rich in oil and can double their mass several times a day. These curious organisms are capable of producing 30 to 100 times as much oil per acre as traditional feedstocks. Algae could generate more oil in an area the size of a two-car garage than could a football field of soybeans, according to Fort Collins, Colo., start-up Solix Biofuels. And algae can grow almost anywhere, including in waste water and on land unsuitable for conventional agriculture.

How about algae-powered jets? Airbus and Honeywell recently announced that they’re developing a jet fuel using vegetation- and algae-based oils that could power a third of commercial aircraft by 2030. Other heavyweights, including Boeing, Virgin Atlantic, Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell, are exploring algae’s potential. The key challenge, says Ed Guinness of the Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy fund, is slashing the cost of production. “You’ve got to grow it at a low enough cost so that you can take advantage of the high yield,” he says. He says it will probably be eight to 10 years before algae go commercial.

Ocean energy. The challenge of harnessing energy from heaving waves and fast-flowing tides is daunting: Severe weather, crushing currents, and the corrosive power of salt water can all do a number on equipment. But entrepreneurs are planning dozens of tidal- and wave-energy projects, from turbines anchored in Florida’s Gulf Stream to a wave farm off the coast of Portugal. Methods for capturing the kinetic energy of tides include placing turbines in dams and tethering them to the seabed. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University believe tapping power from the Gulf Stream could someday supply a third of that state’s energy.

Wave-power generation, which captures the sea’s energy using buoys and other floating devices, is also attracting interest. This year, the world’s first commercial wave farm is set to launch off the coast of Portugal. Projects are also in the works for Oregon, Washington, and California. But Frank Bevc, head of the emerging technology group at Siemens, estimates that large-scale adoption of wave-power technology is more than a decade away.