What are the pros and cons of wave energy? The worldwide potential of wave energy is estimated to be around 2 TW. If the potential indeed is as big as the calculations show, what is stopping us from developing wave power farms on mass scale? In this article we look deeper at the advantages of harnessing ocean wave power, as well as all the complications with these methods.
Advantages of Wave Energy
Harnessing wave energy comes without the emission of harmful green house gases. This is the main motivation factor behind further development of this way of power generation. We need to find energy sources that will replace polluting ones (e.g. fossil fuels).
Like with most green energy sources, wave power is also renewable. Since this energy source ultimately comes from the heat energy that is emitted from the sun, it will not disappear for some time – in fact, several billion years or as long time it takes for the sun to burn out.
3. Enormous Energy Potential
The amount power in that comes in waves is huge. The energy density is typically around 30-40 kW for every meter (2.2 feet) of wave along the shore. As we go further into the ocean 100kW for every meter is not uncommon.
Waves are hardly interrupted and almost always in motion. This makes generating electricity from wave energy a reasonable reliable energy source (at least when you compare them to solar and wind).
It should be mentioned that the amount of energy that is being transported through waves does vary every year and from season to season. On the northern hemisphere, the average value of November and May could be different with a factor of two or more.
Wave and wind energy has a larger potential during the winter which is a nice synergistically effect with solar energy where the largest potential is in the summer.
5. Area Efficient
A wave farm that is occupying less than a half square mile of an ocean would generate more than 30 MW of power – the equivalent of 20.000 British homes.
6. Offshore Wave Power
Ocean wave energy plants can be put offshore, solving several of the issues that come with power plants closer to the land. The first benefit of offshore wave power is that there is a larger energy potential in these waves.
The larger flexibility as to where to put these offshore wave farms could potentially minimize the negative environmental effects wave power has on the environment.
Offshore wave farms are on the other hand more expensive.
Disadvantages of Wave Energy
1. Environmental Effects
Power farms on shore that are visible from land may cause conflicts with tourism and local acceptance. Due to this, coastal installations and facilities on land has to meet higher restrictions in terms of size and location.
We don’t yet know exactly how wave power affects sea life. We will hopefully in the next following years have more data in this area.
Wave power is in very early stages of development, which makes speculating on costs harder. Wave resources, connections to the power grid and the lifespan of the technology are just a few factors that result in different costs for different projects. Of these factors, the lifespan is the most uncertain one, since this is a relatively new technology and we are lacking data on how long these wave power inventions realistically can operate.
At the moment, the costs of wave power are generally very high. These power plants cannot be developed without sufficient funding from the governments. On the other hand, renewable energy is the future, and the costs are expected to drop when larger facilities are up and running.
Many of the parts that are involved in wave power generation require regular maintenance. The fact that some of these parts are under the water does not make it any easier – or cheaper for that matter.
The bottom line is that wave power has an enormous global potential. However, we need more funding and research to polish the technology involved, pushing prices down to a competitive level.