The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Energy Regulators Adjust to a Tidal Gold Rush

Rules change to prevent squatting on tidal energy sites

4 min read

14 August 2007—The promise of unlimited free energy from the ocean’s tides has companies tripping over themselves to get the rights to the best bits of U.S. coastline. But the number of real opportunities for tidal energy—where incoming and outgoing tides drive underwater turbines—is small. And developers are finding it hard not to stumble over each other or over the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s antediluvian hydropower regulations, which were established back when hydropower meant the Hoover Dam. Now FERC is trying to clear the path and bring tidal energy into the 21st century.

Last month, FERC proposed the second change in a year to its tidal technology licensing system. The new six-month pilot license for tidal projects would largely replace a process that can take up to seven years. But some critics suggest that the commission is facilitating a misguided gold rush.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

Keep Reading ↓Show less