The continuing dependencies on non-renewable sources such as petroleum should be revised as the sources are undeniably not only contributing to environmental pollution but also predicted to run out soon.

This is the time to call for initiatives in finding and implementing alternative renewable energy sources. Following that, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) as a renowned institute with multiple technology research expertise has been ahead of the game in the effort to provide green and sustainable energy sources from the ocean.

A group of researchers in UTM has turned to the ocean, which covers more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface for alternative energy sources that have great potential to be utilised. If the eco-friendly sources are exploited strategically, they can contribute to meet the country’s growing energy demand and at the same time align with the government’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 which focuses on sustainable development.

A research fellow of UTM Marine Technology Centre (MTC) and a cluster member of the Environmental and Sustainability, Academy of Professors Malaysia, Prof. Dr. Omar Yaakob said, sources of ocean energy include ocean thermal gradient, tidal range, tidal stream current, ocean waves, ocean winds and ocean salinity gradient.

He added that the usage of these sources will not only give a solution to the dwindling energy resources but also in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). 

Currently, UTM MTC is being entrusted to conduct a study on satellite-based resource mapping of ocean energy as well as the development of more viable local devices. According to Prof. Omar, the resource mapping project aims to provide information about the potential locations of the ocean energy source in Malaysia and the best devices to be used to utilise the energy. 

He also added that among all sources of ocean energy, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion or OTEC which is based on the concepts of ocean thermal gradient of energy system by utilising the temperature difference of the ocean water, has the biggest potential to be commercialised in Malaysia on a large scale. Other resources are limited but may be suitable for localised production of electricity in remote island locations.

To date, UTM has taken the initiative by establishing UTM Ocean Thermal Energy Centre in 2013. The OTEC Centre aims to provide innovative and sustainable solutions to secure future energy demands using the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion system.

“In order to improve our lives by changing the conventional energy sources into renewable energy sources, the research activities related to energy sources should be intensified to develop this ocean system as a whole in Malaysia. UTM is the pioneer in this field and with the full technology and support, we believe UTM can assist the government in the ocean energy field, ” he said.

Prof. Omar added that their team is also planning to develop devices using ocean waves source that can produce electricity from the energy for the needy such as the small island communities. Once the project is accomplished, it can provide electricity to coastal communities near the ocean, and will also be in line with one of UTM’s core value of sustainability and the university key initiative of ‘Prospering Lives’.