How efficient is wave energy? Well, ocean waves are the biggest source of renewable energy. In fact, if wave energy can be harnessed from the whole ocean, the amount of energy would be more than double the current production of energy in the world today.
Unfortunately, studies show that with the current technology, only specific areas around the world are ideal for wave energy devices. Nevertheless, if the efficiency of wave energy can outweigh the cost of placing devices in these areas, then this alternative source of energy will be worthwhile.
According to studies, the wave energy diagram shows that a substantial amount of energy can be harnessed from waves. With the use of wave energy calculators, the exact amount of energy produced from a wave energy device can be calculated and used to see if the amount of energy produced is more than the cost of maintaining these devices.
To test the theories, the first wave park was built in Portugal in 2008. The wave park used Pelamis wave energy converters to harness the energy from waves and transmit them to the power grid. However, after only two months after the official opening the wave farm was shut down due to technical problems.
The Agucadoura Wave Farm in Portugal used 3 Pelamis wave energy converters. The total output of these devices was 2.25MW. The wave farm was officially opened on September of 2008. The Pelamis devices started generating electricity in July of 2008, but two months after the official opening, the farm was decommissioned.
The primary reason why the wave farm was decommissioned was technical problems with the Pelamis wave energy converters. However, it was proven that the machines were capable of generating enough energy to be transferred to the grid.
There are many other ocean and sea wave energy devices. The Pelamis wave energy converters and Ocean Buoys are devices that are grouped together in order to transmit a substantial amount of electricity to the grid.
Other devices are capable of generating substantial amounts of electricity on their own. For example, the Wave Dragon, a wave terminator device, is capable of producing 4-7MW of electricity depending on wave conditions. Another device is the Archimedes Wave Swing (AWS). The device is fully submerged and is capable of generating 4MW of electricity depending on wave conditions.
The amount of electricity that these devices generate from wave power is enough to supply thousands of homes with sufficient electrical power.
Wave energy devices have been tried and tested and have been proven to efficiently generate electricity from wave energy.
If these are so efficient, why haven’t they been mass produced and used in many countries? The efficiency of these devices to generate electricity is not in question. However, one of the biggest hurdles in its popularity and the reason why these haven’t been already used in many countries is that there are still questions about the impact these devices will have on surrounding marine environment.
The electromagnetic forces that these devices generate can affect the natural migratory patterns of marine life. Fishes and other sea creatures may become confused and disoriented. There could also be an increase in the number of predators in the area.
Another concern is that the wave energy devices can pose as a threat to sea and ocean going vessels. The devices located off-shore and in deep waters may not be seen by ocean vessels as they are often semi-submerged.
As these devices are often made with steel, they can cause damage to vessels. A damaged vessel may spill oil and other pollutants into the ocean. The device as well may contain pollutants that can be released into the ocean if damaged by a vessel.
There is also a question of whether or not these devices can withstand extreme weather conditions. Semi-submerged devices and those floating on the ocean surface are vulnerable to storms. The only devices that are safe from extreme weather conditions are those that are fully submerged.
However, fully submerged devices have high repair costs should they have any faults. These are located in deep waters and submersible vehicles need to be used should they need to be repaired.
Wave energy devices are efficient when it comes to generating electricity. It has been proven that these devices can generate sufficient electricity to provide power to thousands of homes inside the grid. However, there are still concerns over the safety of these devices to ocean vessels and the marine environment. These concerns need to be addressed before these devices can be mass produced and used in many countries
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.