California’s 840-mile coastline could be used to generate energy as lawmakers await the governor’s signature on Senate Bill 605. The bill, unanimously approved last month, directs the state Energy Commission to assess the feasibility, benefits and costs of wave and tidal energy projects, starting in 2024.
Wave and tidal energy could potentially supply 30% of the U.S. energy demand. In California, marine energy, including tides, waves currents and rivers, could generate 140 TWh annually, enough to power nearly 13 million homes.
Although wave patterns and frequency are unpredictable, tides go in and out like clockwork once or twice daily, making tidal energy production more reliable. However, few places in the world have enough difference between high and low tide to generate power. In the U.S., the highest tidal ranges are in Alaska. The California bill aims to find areas along its coast that could be used to generate energy.
South Korea currently has the biggest commercial tidal energy plant, which generates 254 MW of electricity. Similar plants exist in France and the United Kingdom. However, experts and investors are worried about issues surrounding underwater land ownership issues surrounding underwater land ownership and the potential environmental impact. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether these plants will continue to be profitable as technology improves and installation costs decrease.