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Alternative Ocean Energy Policy: How we can get to a “yes”

October 22 2008 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim

I believe wave energy is abstract to many people.

They may have been knocked over as a kid or held under as an adult but my sense is that this may be near the extent people understand about wave power.

I believe that people think past... or maybe around the actual process of capturing wave or tidal energy.

What does it take to capture wave energy?

The photo to the right starts to address what's involved in this process. It's a buoy from Finavera Renewables. Claiming to be unsinkable, the $2.5M device was put in place off the Oregon Coast. It sank.

But all of us know we need to figure out how to get energy from alternative sources. If we're going to do what Friedman suggests in Hot, Flat and Crowded we'll need to boot up a number of new alternative energy industries. I don't share that the buoy sank as a proof point that wave energy is a bad idea. I think wave energy and all alternative forms of energy need to be explored, understood and managed in a dynamic process that evolves alongside the jumps in the technology itself. At the very core of this we need to figure out how to coexist. We need to figure out what it takes for us to say "yes."

Environmentalists and environmental groups say "no" most of the time.

We need to figure out how to say "yes."

I think, most of the time a "no" is warranted. Yet my sense is that we need to add a bit of flexibility into our dialog. I'm not, in any way, suggesting we sell out... take our eyes off our mission or some other ill-rooted idea. I'm suggesting that our world needs new ideas, new sources of energy and we should not only be part of that dialog.

We should be part of the solution. Our new Wave Energy blog explores this, check it out.

Our recent wave energy policy also speaks to this.

The Surfrider Foundation recognizes that technologies that utilize ocean waves, tides, currents and wind may offer important benefits as renewable sources of energy that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. These alternative energy sources may also provide economic development through a cutting-edge industry for coastal communities.

Surfrider also recognizes that there are many questions and concerns about ocean energy, including potential impacts to ocean recreation, nearshore ecology, coastal processes, public safety, aesthetics, and fishing access.

Surfrider Foundation acknowledges the growing demand for energy worldwide and that our coasts and ocean may be considered as possible sites for energy generation using alternative, non-polluting technologies. The Surfrider Foundation will strive to support clean, renewable, low-impact sources of energy. The Foundation will work to ensure that energy generated from ocean resources meets the objectives below and is consistent with our mission.

Coastal community members and recreational ocean users, including surfers, are affected by the development of ocean energy in coastal communities and are key stakeholders in local, regional and national planning efforts.

The Surfrider Foundation believes the following principles must be applied when evaluating or planning for potential projects:
  • Consider impacts to the environment through comprehensive assessments and application of best available science
  • Ensure public safety through design standards and development of emergency response plans
  • Require baseline data and frequent monitoring to quantify impacts to the environment and threats to public safety
  • Evaluate the impact of EMFs (electromagnetic fields) on the behavior of fishes, sharks, and marine mammals
  • Protect ocean recreation opportunities, including surfing, by ensuring that project sites do not impact or overlap with priority recreational areas
  • Consider fishing and other existing uses of proposed project areas to assess potential lost opportunities and evaluate trade-offs
  • Proceed incrementally and cautiously to ensure that impacts from one project are understood before expanding the size of that project or proceeding with additional projects
  • Initiate comprehensive planning for the ocean ecosystem to ensure an appropriate balance between emerging industrial uses and conservation
  • Employ adaptive management to ensure that new information is applied to assess needs for modification, mitigation, and/or removal.
  • Include meaningful community input and ensure transparency in the planning process to ensure local communities are informed about projects and have an opportunity to provide meaningful input
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