The Future of Wave Energy

by Theodore Robin, GLOBUS Correspondent

Wave energy or power is a niche but rapidly growing source of energy garnering a lot of interest around the world. Wave energy captures the energy of waves and then turns into electricity. It is a form of hydroelectricity and is similar to tidal power in many regards.

Waves are transformed into energy through turbines that are either placed on the surface of the ocean or underwater; the turbines are activated by the force of water, spin and produce energy, which is then sent to the grid.  

As it indirectly uses the energy that stems from the sun, it can be considered a renewable source of energy. Most waves are created by wind produced when the sun, heating up the air, creates temperature differences across the Earth’s surface. As the air circulates, it gathers as wind.

Wave energy is also renewable source of energy in the sense that it emits no pollution. Many in the scientific community believe that this type of energy could, alone, meet the global electricity demand if were developed to the maximum of its potential.

Hence, wave power has many advantages: waves are abundant and widely available and provide an almost limitless source of energy without producing greenhouse gases. A lot of cities are close to coasts, which decreases the cost of bringing wave electricity to customer. Wave energy production produces no damage to land, and there is no issue of having to purchase land.

However, wave energy does have some drawbacks. The high cost investment is certainly a barrier to entry. The cost of investment is sometimes undermined by a low number of waves, and this is why these devices must be placed in the most productive areas.  They are also quite vulnerable to storms as they can be damaged in big waves. Critics have argued that these facilities produce detrimental effects on marine ecosystem and may cause disturbance to vessels which pass by.

As of today, marine energy only provides a small amount of electricity to consumers. It currently accounts for about 0.02% of total generated electricity in the European Union. The Orkney Islands in Scotland are the world leaders in wave energy production, Scotland alone provides close to 10% of total marine energy in Europe. Improvements in wave energy technology will improve the efficiency of the production and reduce costs as well. Along with other renewable energy sources, wave energy could help the EU achieved its goal of renewable energy having a 20% share in electrical production. Wave energy should not be the only way to increase the share of renewable energy, but it is an affordable and easy alternative.

Header Image: Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Sources:

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