As alternative energy sources become increasingly vital to combating global warming and petroleum markets, the search for safe, non-intrusive power production is widening - and deepening.
Scottish Power Renewables has successfully tested a new type of underwater turbine able to produce up to one megawatt of electricityy from undersea currents. The firm's 30-meter turbines are planned to be built in farms of ten, anchored to the sea floor off the west coast of Scotland. Since the devices make use of tidal power, they are more reliable than their wind-driven cousins, and have the added benefit of being completely hidden from view - one less criticism for detractors of 'unsightly' wind farms.
The undersea farms pose minimal risk to wildlife in that the turbines rotate at relatively slow speeds. If the plan moves forward, the project could be the first undersea energy farm in the world.
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The downside to the project is, as typical with most renewable technologies, the cost - each device costs approximately $11 million to manufacture and install. The total output of the proposed project, 10 megawatts, is a fraction of the power produced by nuclear, coal, or oil power plants - however, the firm is confident that innovations will continue to drive costs down, and that undersea turbines may represent an important aspect of helping industrialized nations reach renewable energy goals.
And, since the turbines are driven by tidal forces, this could be one of the first energy production systems that is, albeit indirectly, lunar-powered, which significantly adds to the projects cool-factor.