Wave and tidal energy: Huge potential, many challenges

Vietnam has a “tremendous” potential for renewable energy from the sea, the problem is that it is necessary to choose and develop technology to exploit commensurate with the potential that the ocean offers.

On September 23, 2021, the Vietnam Ocean Energy Alliance (Vietnam Ocean Energy Alliance) organized an online seminar among members including many scientists, researchers and technology applications in marine energy.
With more than 70 percent of the Earth covered by water, the potential for renewable energy from the sea equates to more than twice the world’s current energy needs, according to the team’s report. New energy technologies from the sea not only help reduce CO2 emissions but also ensure sustainable development and energy security in the future.
Along with technologies installed at sea such as offshore wind power, floating solar power; Ocean energy includes wave energy, tidal energy, temperature difference energy (OTEC), and salinity differential energy. (Salinity gradient) has contributed to diversifying renewable energy sources and is being evaluated as an important part of the world’s blue economy.

Vietnam is a country with great marine potential, it is essential to explore, exploit and strategically develop marine energy sources to make the most of available resources.
Presenting at the webinar, Dr. Tran Thanh Toan, a researcher working at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US (NREL) shared about “Opportunities and challenges” knowledge of the two sources of tidal and wave energy”.
According to Dr. Tran Thanh Toan, Vietnam currently does not have official data on detailed assessment of marine energy. However, with a coastline of more than 3260km, an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles, the potential of the sea for our country is “extreme”. The problem is whether Vietnam has enough capacity to exploit from the sea with that potential or not.
Specifically, a number of collaborative studies between Vietnamese and Italian research groups in 2020 show that the wave and wind energy density in Vietnam has a fairly average value. According to research from a Chinese research team, the wave distribution density in the East Sea has seasonal changes, the highest in winter, spring, and lowest in summer. Currently, wave energy in Vietnam is still in the early stages of research and it is necessary to find a suitable technology.
Meanwhile, in terms of tidal energy, Vietnam’s potential is abundant. According to statistics from Woodharbinger, the world’s tidal energy potential is 120 GW, although there are no specific statistics, Vietnam is listed as one of the hot spots for this form of energy.
Regarding ocean current energy, according to NASA forecast, the whole world has the potential of 5,000 GW. Vietnam has a fairly average distribution density, with a flow rate of about 0.85 m/s.

Ms. Minh Duc, a researcher from Ingine Technology Company, shared that this unit is currently developing a near-shore wave power project on Ly Son island, Quang Ngai province. The project is in the form of a grant to provide more electricity to operate the desalination machine on An Binh small island (Ly Son).
According to Ms. Minh Duc, there are many different technologies to exploit wave energy, depending on the technology will determine different potential locations. If well developed, wave electricity can be exploited to expand its application possibilities, such as combining solar energy replacement, supplying electricity for aquaculture farmers, and supplying electricity to tourist islands.
Dr. Phung Ngoc, a researcher on ocean wave energy, expressed his opinion: Wave and tidal energy is still quite new in Vietnam. Currently, the research team of Dr. Phung Ngoc, with Professor Nguyen The Mich, has guided a group of students working on tidal energy, installed in the waters of Quang Ninh, and obtained quite positive results.
The sea area from Quang Ngai to Binh Thuan has had many small studies, which are evaluated as having great potential, serving the purpose of developing renewable energy in many fields such as inshore and offshore fishing, erosion mitigation, etc. miss. Although the cost of technologies is still high and is a barrier, the team is continuing to research on solutions to exploit ocean energy suitable for each region.
Tran Thanh Toan said that not only Vietnam but many other countries are also focusing on researching technological solutions to exploit ocean energy. Even big countries and corporations are having a headache to develop technical standards for long-term exploitation.
According to the OES 2021 report, technological limitations are making energy extraction an unsolvable problem. From 2010 to now, among the installation projects with a total scale of 28MW of tidal energy, now only more than a third of them are in operation. Similarly, wave energy projects have a total scale of 12MW, but so far only 1/12 of them are still in operation.

Vietnam wants to really convert from traditional forms of energy such as coal to renewable energy forms, it needs research centers, testing different forms of technology, inheriting previous studies and lessons. From there, an accurate potential map can be drawn, with specific plans for future development.
When the scale of ocean energy development is large enough, the combination of wave, tidal, current and wind energy forms will help the grid system provide more stable supply regardless of season and weather.
Further, renewable energy from the ocean is an important part of serving the blue-sea economy, including activities such as: survey submarine equipment, marine aquaculture, and water exploitation. in the sea, creating clean water sources, serving rescue and rescue, and remote island areas.

Muon Nguyen

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