Ocean Currents

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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy


About Susan Olcott

Susan Olcott is outreach manager for Ocean Conservancy's Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Program.


New Offshore Renewable Energy Technology Highlights Need for Smart Ocean Planning

Posted On December 26, 2013 by

The VolturnUS floating wind turbine off the coast of Castine, Maine.

It was a blustery Maine day when I hiked out to a rocky promontory through the snow to get a glimpse of the University of Maine’s VolturnUS wind turbine in action. Ironically, I had seen the launch of this experimental turbine onto a barge in the Penobscot River on one of the hottest days of the summer – with much ceremony celebrating the first floating platform wind turbine to be tested in U.S. waters.

Today’s visit took me far upriver to the current testing site at Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) in Castine.

Guiding me to the viewing spot was Rick Armstrong, director of the Tidal Energy Device Evaluation Center, otherwise known as TEDEC. Had our weather been a bit more favorable, we would have taken one of MMA’s boats out to get an up-close look at the turbine as well another of their sites: a platform for testing tidal energy devices in the Bagaduce River.
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North America’s First Floating Wind Turbine Raises Need for Smart Ocean Planning

Posted On August 7, 2013 by

VolturnUS turbine

Photo: Susan Olcott / Ocean Conservancy

When I first saw the VolturnUS, North America’s first floating wind turbine, it was smaller than I had imagined. But once I realized it was just a 1/8 scale model, I knew the potential implications for this new technology were huge.

Developed by the University of Maine’s DeepCWind Consortium, the launch of VolturnUS could mark the beginning of a new industry in Maine. “This project is a first-of-its-kind design to help develop more cost-effective offshore wind technologies,” says Habib Dagher of the DeepCWind Consortium.

Making this happen will be complicated both financially and technologically, but the real question is: How do you decide where to put these turbines?

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Rising Tidal Energy: What Fast Company’s #8 “Most Innovative Company in Energy” Learned from Ocean Planning

Posted On March 1, 2013 by

When Fast Company released its “World’s Most Innovative Companies in Energy”, a familiar name was on the list – the Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC). Ranked #8 on the list, ORPC has been involved with ocean planning on the local level in Maine (and a great example of what can be achieved regionally), and as we’ve written about before (here, here and here), it’s important to find meaningful ways for users to participate so that they can share their concerns as well as their expertise. Many companies, like ORPC, have benefited already, and Nathan Johnson, Director of Environmental Affairs, shared his experience with their tidal energy project in Maine:

In my work at ORPC, I have been intimately involved with ocean planning and community engagement on a local scale in the communities of Eastport and Lubec, Maine.  This has been critical to ORPC’s successful installation of the first federally-licensed, grid-connected, tidal energy project in the Americas, not using a dam or barrage.

Through early, open and frequent communications, ORPC developed relationships, and more importantly trust, that were vital to the success of the Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project.  From the development stage, we sought input from fishermen in the area.  Initial discussions with the Cobscook Bay Fishermen’s Association, facilitated by the Cobscook Bay Resource Center, contributed to the siting of the project. This location met the company’s tidal energy resource requirements while minimizing conflict with fishing activities.

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Increased Maritime Activity Highlights Need for National Ocean Policy

Posted On January 8, 2013 by

This post originally appeared on gCaptain.

This New Year comes with new opportunities – as well as the potential for conflicts – in the open ocean.

In 2013, the US federal government will offer competitive lease sales for offshore wind farms in the waters off of Virginia, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Considering the impact these sites could have on existing ocean industries, like shipping lanes or port traffic, the need for coordination and collaboration is vital. The National Ocean Policy aims to address those concerns.

The Policy – which was adopted in 2010, with an implementation plan expected soon – provides guidance in making decisions that will protect the United States’ ocean, waterways and coastlines. More than 20 federal agencies and over 140 laws address our coasts and the ocean, often in competing and conflicting ways. The policy improves collaboration and coordination and empowers the states to have a greater say in federal decision-making.

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Air Traffic Control for the Ocean

Posted On November 16, 2012 by

Map of sensitive habitats off the coast of New England. Click for a larger version.

At a given time, our air is filled with thousands of planes intersecting each other’s flight paths in a coordinated fashion. The same is true for our ocean and its industries – and a new map shows just that. The New England Ocean Action Network (NEOAN), a group of organizations supportive of ocean planning, created the map to illustrate just how many different activities occur in the ocean – ferry routes, shipping lanes, sanctuary boundaries, fishing grounds, whale habitat and proposed wind energy areas, to name a few. Imagine trying to coordinate these uses so that they don’t all end up on top of each other or harm to the ecosystem on which they depend.

This coordination is one of the goals of the National Ocean Policy. Each of nine regions around the country will establish a Regional Planning Body (RPB), comprised of representatives from state and federal agencies, tribal members and the regional fishery management council. These regional groups will be guided by local stakeholders and the public and will work to create a plan to guide the various uses of the oceans for its member states. The New England RPB will be holding its first meeting next week – the first official meeting of any around the country – to begin the creation of a plan for its coasts and oceans.

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