Data from the Ocean Is a Big Deal: Here’s Why (and How We Can Get Better Collecting It)

It’s hard to overstate the importance of our oceans. They cover nearly three-quarters of the globe, represent a major food source, and regulate our climate. By 2030, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates ocean-based industries will generate $3 trillion of economic activity.  

But in a world where data has become critical to manage every challenge and opportunity, we collect relatively little of it about the ocean and our activities offshore. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is at the forefront of oceanic data collection, and it is working to help fill the data gaps. Along with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), NOAA sponsors the Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize to “integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, ultimately revolutionizing our ability to collect the data needed to understand, map, and monitor the ocean.” 

Last summerNOAA posted a blog to help curious readers understand why it collects so much data on the ocean and whit matters. Via drifters, buoys, Argo floats, research ships and more, NOAA said it operates thousands of instruments to help scientists monitor the global ocean. In total, the data helps NOAA and the science community track and predict climate change, improve hurricane forecasts, forecast tsunamis, and monitor fish populations and ecosystem health. 

That’s high-stakes data with real-world implications. 

NOAA represents the scientific and research community’s need for ocean data, but gathering data offshore is every bit as critical to the missions of the defense and security, oil and gas, and shipping industries, among other sectors of the maritime economy. To spotlight offshore oil and gas, there are tens of thousands of offshore oil and natural gas wells in the world, which need to be monitored on a consistent basis. 

But data collection requires power, and the ocean is a power desert.  

Powering the vast and quickly growing array of data-gathering, monitoring and sensor equipment is one of the biggest market opportunities for the deployment of wave energy-based autonomous offshore power systems (AOPS), like those developed by C-Power. Much of the data-gathering equipment worldwide lives off batteries, which limits how much data can be collected and transmittedIf digitization and autonomy are going to take root, then new, fit-for-purpose power and communications solutions are needed. 

A C-Power AOPS provides real-time communications capabilities and collects energy day and night from highly predictable ocean energy, allowing more robust data to be collected more oftenIt also means that the data can be sent to the cloud in real-time. This is a game-changer. 

Take the oil and gas industry challenge to monitor for hydrocarbon leaks at well sites. In upcoming sea trials co-sponsored by the DOE and U.S. NavyC·Power’s SeaRAY AOPS will be equipped with a methane emissions sensor, transmitting live data during the sixmonth deploymentThe combined AOPS/emissions sensor package could be used to provide baseline and periodic monitoring at a decommissioned well or an underwater carbon capture and sequestration reservoir 

At the same time it’s supporting the hydrocarbon sensor, the AOPS will provide power and real-time data transmission capabilities for BioSonics long-range subsea environmental monitoring system. The BioSonics echosounder will also serve as an intrusion detection system during the trial. 

But the impact of collecting and delivering more robust data more often doesn’t stop there. Navies will be able to better protect the seas. The scientific community will produce more complete research to help society adapt to climate change, mitigate natural disasters, and protect crucial food sources. 

We’re here to help unlock this brighter future and massive industry innovation.  

(Pictured above: BioSonics’ long-range subsea environmental monitoring system, which is an example of the type of scientific data-gathering system C-Power’s SeaRAY AOPS can support by harnessing the ocean’s energy. Photo courtesy of Biosonics.)