Interesting Facts about the History of Wave Energy

Ever since the discovery of crude oil and its development as a source of energy, the world became complacent in the search for other sources of energy. Crude oil was in abundance and much of our energy requirements have been reliant on this source of energy.

However, crude oil is a limited resource. There are studies that report that less than 10% of supply of crude oil is now available. The time has come that alternative source of energy need to be found and developed, to move our reliance away from crude oil.

Wind energy and solar energy have been developed and used in many countries today. However, the amount of energy that these sources produce is still not enough to take crude oil out of the equation. More sources of energy need to be found and the world is now taking on another closer look at using ocean waves to produce energy.  

The history of wave energy came before the need for alternative sources of energy, but the real development of the technology used to convert wave energy into usable electricity began only in the last decade.

In 1799, the first patent for using ocean waves as an energy resource was filed by Girard and his sons from France.

In 1910 a crude device that used ocean waves provided power to the house of Bochaux-Praceique at Royan, Bordeax in France.

Many researchers and inventors in the UK have been trying to harness the power of ocean waves, but unfortunately, there really wasn’t a concerted effort to develop this technology.

It was only during the oil crisis in 1973 that researchers took a closer look into developing ocean and sea wave energy devices.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Norwegian Institute of Technology, US Naval Academy, Bristol University, University of Lancaster, and MIT joined forces and developed the Edinburgh Duck, a device that could harness the power of ocean waves and convert it into energy.

The future of wave power seemed to be improving, but when the oil crisis was over in the 1980’s, the world turned its back again on developing wave power. It was only during the late 1900’s did interest in developing wave power renew.

In 1991, the Islay Limpet, a 500 KW oscillating water column device was installed along a portion of the shoreline in Scotland.

In 1994, Finland announced that they had installed the Waveroller. Energy was produced by installing a plate that was anchored at the sea bottom. Waves moved the upper portion of the plate back and forth and the kinetic energy was collected by a piston pump.

In 1997, Ocean Power Technologies in the United States developed the Powerbouy. The up and down movements of a wave caused hydraulic fluid within a bouy to spin a generator thereby producing energy.

More companies around the world started to develop different technologies to produce energy from ocean waves. Looking into the history of wave farms, we’ll see that these only began sprouting in the last decade. To date, only a handful of wave farms can be seen around the world.

The first wave farm was in Portugal and was called the Agucadoara Wave Farm. The farm was commissioned in 2008 and produced 2.25 MW of energy. Unfortunately, it was shortlived as it was also decommissioned the same year.

In 2009, Spain announced Mutriku Breakwater Wave Plant and it was capable of producing 0.3 MW of energy. The same year Israel commissioned SDE Sea Waves Power Plant that produced 0.04 MW.

In 2011 two wave farms were commissioned in the United Kingdom. The Orkney Wave Power Station produced 2.4 MW and the Siadar Wave Power Station was capable of producing 4 MW of power.

The world’s wave energy technology has much more room for improvement. Technologies to harness wave power have been around for centuries, but the lack of conviction to develop these technologies and turn them into a main resource for energy has prevented this happening at a much faster pace.

How is wave energy used around the world? Sad to say, wave energy has not been a priority, mainly because of the initial setup costs.

Maintenance costs of wave power plants are not as expensive when compared to other power generation plants, but initial setup costs have prevented this type of technology being used around the world.

As the world starts to move away from the reliance on fossil fuels, more power generation plants that use clean sources of energy will be developed. The move from fossil fuel is already evident in many parts of the world, and this could mean that wave energy will soon become more popular.