Water power — the good and bad

Like many people, especially those who live and work on or near water, I’ve been mesmerized by the tsunami videos from Japan. One in particular stands out. The video was shot from the second or third floor of a building as seawater rushed by carrying cars, trucks, boats and, finally, other buildings. It was truly an amazing display of nature’s power and the inexorable force of moving water.

We’ve also been watching the unfolding drama of the nuclear plant meltdown in Japan. It’s ironic that in order to quash an emergency that was created by too much water, even more water is needed (to cool the exposed fuel rods).

On the lighter side of water power, a waterfront restaurant that sat on a barge on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Ky., was swept away from its moorings by high water on March 11. Fortunately, one cable kept it tethered and prevented the barge/restaurant from being washed downriver and possibly into a nearby bridge. A pair of towboats came quickly to its rescue and eased it back to its gangway where the staff and guests, which included former NFL player and current NBC sportscaster Cris Collingsworth, could climb off (with stories to tell).

People have always looked to find ways to harness some of this water power, but we have a long ways to go. The good news is that progress continues to be made. Monday morning, I heard a local radio news report about an experimental wave-energy generator being sea-tested in Puget Sound this spring.

And a yacht designer, Sauter Carbon Offset Design, has plans for boats with multiple sources of renewable energy, including a “motion damping regeneration” system.

It seems unlikely that we’ll ever be able to transform the power of tsunamis from destructive to constructive, but there’s a lot of water power out there just waiting to be tapped.

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About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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