The world needs more environmentally friendly ways of generating power. But even the greenest sources of renewable energy can have a negative impact: some Ontario homeowners claim that wind turbines are driving down their property values, and recent studies have found that they may not be highly energy efficient. When solar installations are placed in some habitats, they can put wildlife at risk. And using the power of naturally occurring waves can cause underwater noise that may have consequences for marine life.
Obviously that's not a reason to dismiss wave energy - but before it's adopted in a big way, more information is needed. That's why IBM and The Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) are teaming up to produce a huge collection of underwater acoustic data, in an attempt to figure out the impact of wave energy devices on their surrounding ecosystems. The project is called SmartBay, and it involves monitoring coastal conditions, pollution levels and marine life in Galway Bay, Ireland.
Lots of companies have designed machines to harness the power of waves, but the technology hasn't been perfected yet. Although waves are a powerful source of energy, it's difficult to convert that energy into electricity, and many of the existing methods create excessive underwater noise.
Wave energy is not the only alternate energy source that's popping up in large bodies of water. It may look like science fiction, but offshore wind farms are also being built around the world - mostly off the coast of Europe and Scandinavia. Here's an eerie but beautiful video of a farm off the coast of Denmark: