What is Wave Energy?
Wave energy is the harvesting of the naturally occurring kinetic energy produced by the impact of land and water. Like tidal power, this source of energy is not in as wide use as it really should be, but the concept has been around since the 1890s. The most effective example of modern wave power production is currently operating in Portugal, at Aucadoura Wave Park. It opened for operation in 2008 and has produced exciting results. All large bodies of water, no matter their location on the planet, produce waves when they interact with land barriers. Who has ever gone to the beach at a local lake? The potential for this form of energy is also magnificent. The Great Lakes Region of North America is the best example in the West of an inland body of water that can produce wave energy. In the East, one cannot help but be awed by the potential of the Caspian Sea. These locations would be perfect places to help power entire continents, and it could all be done through the power of waves.
The Importance of Harvesting Wave Energy
There are a great many advantages that humanity can be a party to by harnessing the power produced by waves. The best thing about wave energy is that it will never run out, at least not in the scale of human existence. There will always be waves crashing down upon the shores of every nation that has a shoreline, and heavily populated coastal regions will be the first ones to benefit. The waves flow back from the shore, but they always return, unlike fossil fuels. In most all places around the world, fossil fuels are running out as quickly as people can discover them.
Unlike ethanol, a corn product, waves are not limited by season. They require no input from humans to make their power, and they can always be counted on. Also, unlike fossil fuels, creating power from waves leaves behind no harmful byproducts such as gas, waste, and other forms of pollution. The energy from waves can be taken directly into electricity producing machinery and used to power generators and power plants nearby. Another benefit to using this energy is its nearness to places that can use it. As hinted to above, lots of big cities and harbors that are next to the ocean can harness the power of waves for their own use. Coastal cities tend to be well populated, so a lot of people can make use of wave energy power plants.
Another benefit is the variety of ways to gather wave energy. Current gathering methods range from installed power plants with hydro turbines to seafaring vessels equipped with massive structures that are laid into the sea to gather the wave energy. The biggest advantages of wave power, compared to most of the other alternative energy sources, is that it is easily predictable and can be used to calculate the amount of energy that it will produce. Wave energy is consistent and proves much better than other sources which are dependent on wind or sun exposure.
Dependence on foreign companies for fossil fuels can be reduced if energy from wave power can be extracted up to its maximum potential. Not only will it help to curb air pollution, but it can also provide green jobs for millions of people. Unlike fossil fuels, which cause massive damage to land as they can leave large holes while extracting energy from them, wave power does not cause any damage to the Earth. It is safe, clean, and is, for many, even though it has not yet received the proper investment, the preferred method to extract energy from the ocean.
How Does a Wave Power Generator Work?
Wave energy is produced when electricity generators are placed in or on the ocean’s surface. The energy provided is most often used in desalination plants, power plants, and water pumps. Energy output is determined by wave height, wave speed, wavelength, and water density. One of the great things about the collection of wave energy is the plethora of designs available for the work. As of right now, around the world, there are at least sixteen different designs that are being considered by companies and governments as they seek to move away from the use of environmentally unsafe fossil fuels. Below are just a few examples of those designs. As mentioned, there are several more. There are artificially constructed wave pools where waves are generated that then generate electricity. There are shore based production facilities that collect the power of waves as they hit the shore. There are even ships, as mentioned, that can be rigged with wave power generators that are able to produce electricity from the waves produced by the ship’s wake. It is clear that the potential for variety in this field is extensive.
Ocean Floor Wave Power Generator
Wave Farm Power Generator
Wave Island Power Generator
What Can Wave Power Generation Do for Humanity?
Wave energy is generally considered to be the most concentrated and least varied form of renewable energy. This means that there are fewer variables, or obstacles, to account for when it comes to collecting wave energy. Wave energy is not dependent on depleting sources, and it does not require sunlight or wind to generate power. It is the high power density of wave energy that suggests that it has the capacity to become the least expensive and most abundant of all renewable energy sources in the world. The only present downside to using this type of energy is that, at present, the sixteen designs available for the collection of wave energy all have a similar problem. There is so much energy available in waves that there is not yet a machine that can harness all of it, which means that there is still a great deal of wave energy going unharnessed.
A 2012 report prepared by RE Vision Consulting, working for the US Department of Energy, found that the theoretical ocean wave energy resource potential in the United States is more than 50% of the annual domestic electricity demand of the entire country. The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately 2 terawatts and an additional 2 million megawatts, or double the current total world electricity production, could be produced from the oceans via wave power. In the United States, current wave energy production provides for the needs of just 100,000 homes, annually. However, subtract the remaining obstacles in wave energy’s way such as the fossil fuel lobby, overly crowded shipping lanes, and low investment, and the potential for wave power production in the United States could easily exceed even the above prediction of producing 50% over the annual estimated domestic electricity need. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that that nation has the potential to produce at least 50% of Europe’s total potential wave power reserves, which would go a long way to keep Europe warm during its sometimes long winters and decrease its dependence on external sources of energy.