March 14, 2024
Journal Article

Powering the Blue Economy: Marine Energy at Kelp Farm Sites


Marine renewable energy (MRE) has the potential to power businesses in the blue economy. Kelp farms are an emerging maritime market of the blue economy and are predicted to grow, but they are not currently using MRE for their power needs. As the number and size of kelp farms increase, more offshore power will be needed onsite for operations, monitoring, and harvesting. Marine renewable energy devices such as tidal turbines and wave energy converters (WECs) could be used to supply power for these needs. This paper assesses the status of kelp farming in the continental United States, investigates the electricity needs of kelp farms, and examines the feasibility of generating the required electricity from wave and tidal current energy. The United States currently has 165 kelp farms that have either active or pending permits. The farms use electricity for environmental monitoring, offshore lighting, the raising and lowering of lines, and boat operations. Most kelp farms are in protected, nearshore waters that don’t have significant wave energy resources. The limited available wave energy could be used to power small devices, but WECs have not yet been developed for that application. Some kelp farms are in locations that feature significant tidal energy resources, but small tidal turbines that are compatible with existing farm operations are not yet commercially available. As low-power WECs and small tidal turbines are developed, kelp farms could be research partners and early adopters of the new technologies, which would encourage their broader use by other blue economy businesses.

Published: March 14, 2024


Branch R.A., D.J. Rose, M.E. Grear, C.D. Briggs, and F.M. Ticona Rollano. 2023. Powering the Blue Economy: Marine Energy at Kelp Farm Sites. Marine Technology Society Journal 57, no. 4:6-14. PNNL-SA-182866. doi:10.4031/MTSJ.57.4.2

Research topics