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Environmental Impacts of Extracting Energy from Waves, Tides, Currents and the Ocean

Mark P. Rossow, Ph.D, PE Retired

Energy can be extracted from the motion of waves, tides, rivers, ocean currents, and the temperature differences between water at the ocean surface and water far below. In the search for sustainable energy sources, these marine and “hydrokinetic” (concerned with kinetic energy of the motion of water) technologies are attracting increasing attention. As these technologies are studied more, however, many potential environmental concerns have arisen. The list is lengthy: plant and animal habitats will be altered when wave heights or velocities are changed. Bottom-dwelling organisms will be affected by sediment transport and deposition. Marine construction activities will generate underwater sounds sufficiently loud to drive away or actually kill some species of animals. Electromagnetic fields associated with generating devices and cables may interfere with species that depend on sensing electric fields for identifying prey or on sensing magnetic fields for navigation. Anti-biofouling coatings applied to structures may be toxic to some species. Moving turbine blades may strike and kill fish just as wind turbines kill birds. The transfer of large volumes of water between the ocean surface and depth will affect water temperatures, proportions of dissolved solids, nutrient content, and gas concentrations. The purpose of this course is to describe these environmental concerns and identify mitigation strategies that might be implemented.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.