Researchers at work on a tidal energy project near Whidbey Island are exploring new terrain. Not only in the field of renewable energy, but also along the dark bottom of Puget Sound.
University of Washington researchers spent part of last week testing the waters in Admiralty Inlet. The area is a possible site for underwater turbines that could generate power from the tides.
U.W. Oceanographer Jim Thomson says the recent trip provided a deeper view of the area, thanks in part to a new research assistant.
Thomson: “This is basically an underwater robot. And so here at the front it has color and blank–and–white cameras. I has a small robot arm that can grab things.”
The robot recorded video of the ocean floor. That gives researchers a better picture of whether this spot is appropriate for the underwater windmills.
Thomson: “Well it’s kind of a boring, rocky bottom — a dark, boring, rocky bottom, which is kind of ideal for a tidal turbine. So, at first pass there is nothing that would indicate that this is not the right site, but now we’re digging a little deeper.”
Snohomish County P.U.D. is heading up this pilot project. If it’s successful, the P.U.D. plans to develop five sites for tidal energy in Puget Sound.
The P.U.D.’s Craig Collar says, altogether, the sites could produce enough energy for up to 70 thousand homes.
Collar: “Our load is growing, and resources like wind and traditional hydro power simply aren’t going to be enough to meet those needs. And there’s a lot of energy out there in the Sound, so if there’s a way to effectively harness it in a responsible way, it could be a really significant contributor to meeting those challenges.”
The P.U.D. plans to work with the University on several more studies before any turbines go in the water. The studies will look at how the turbines affect fish, marine habitat and the underwater environment.
Liz Jones, KUOW News – http://kuow.org/program.php?id=17328