Our first thought was to write a post about the challenges of wave energy to help explain why it hasn't happened yet, but it seemed more positive to start with the advantages. Why are we pursing this anyway?
These are certainly not all, and they are not necessarily in order of importance, but some of the key benefits of wave energy are:
Clean renewable energy. Wave energy is a form of renewable energy. As long as we have weather, we will have waves. There will be an energy and carbon payback period, but wave energy converters (WECs) will produce electricity with a net positive impact on the climate.
Fresh water. WECs are often designed to produce electricity, but their high-pressure low-velocity loads seem ideal for pumping sea water for reverse osmosis desalination to create fresh water. Suitable locations for this type of technology are California, Western Australia, and Southern Africa, which are dry but have a large wave resource.
Predictability. Large waves are created by large storms that have already occurred out in the ocean. Computer models are very good at simulating the propagation of waves and coastal waves can be predicted accurately, in some cases, days in advance. This is a huge benefit. Many renewables are unpredictable, which creates challenges for electrical grid operators.
Diversity of energy resources. Renewable energy production is at the mercy of the elements (solar only produces during the day, and wind energy only when the wind blows), while demand for energy is regular and consistent. Adding another form of renewable energy to the mix helps to smooth the energy supply to more easily meet electricity demand.
Low visual impact. WECs have a low profile on the water surface or in some case are submerged. They may even be located far enough offshore so that they cannot be seen from the coast. They will have minimal impact on the beauty of the world's shorelines.
Boost to the economy. Especially in the early stages of technology development, WEC production, installation, operations, and maintenance will have to happen and be supported locally. This will create huge benefits to the regional and national economies. For example, check out the video created by RenewableUK, about the potential socio-economic benefits to wave and tidal energy to the UK:
It's cool. The diversity of types of WECs is sometime given as a criticism of the industry. In wind energy, the industry has converged to one design: the three bladed horizontal axis turbine. On the other hand, the wave energy industry has developed many type of WECs and hundreds of designs. However, we see this as opportunity. It means that no one has figured it out yet. The Wave Energy Prize takes a similar view; from their recent blog post:
At present, the means of exploiting wave power seems only constrained by the imagination of the inventors.
We are passionate and knowledgeable about the physics of ocean waves and wave-body interactions. Wave energy extraction is a complex, challenging and interesting problem. We, the other entrants in the Wave Energy Prize, and the industry as a whole have a chance to come up with creative and interesting solutions for absorbing wave energy in an efficient and cost effective manner.
It's fun and it's cool.
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These posts are intended to help people understand what it is we're doing.