Wave Energy

A 200 Years-old source of energy gets all the attention

Despite many failures, researchers believe wave energy can power the world.


The manager of the Hawaii National Marine Renewable Energy Center, and a wave energy researcher at the University of California, told NBC news last month that they see big things for wave energy. Wave energy will be providing power to millions of homes in coming decades. Unlike wind and solar energy, waves are easily forecasted and available 24/7, and has many other advantages over other renewable energy sources, the experts recently told NBC News reporter. According to UC researcher, “Every meter of the California coast receives 30 kilowatts of wave energy” while “every square meter of a solar panel receives 0.2 to 0.3 kilowatts of solar energy.” But why experts believe that sea waves are renewable and has enormous energy potential and might be the next “big thing” in green energy?

What is wave energy?

Wave energy, or ocean energy, is energy harnessed from the up and down movement of the sea waves. This energy can be captured to generate electricity. When when strong winds move over the ocean surface, it transfers the energy to the waves. They are powerful source of energy. The following video explains how does energy is captured from waves and how energy can be harnessed from waves.

Old technology persuade in new Ways

In 1799, the French engineer, Girard and his son, obtained a patent on the use energy from ocean waves. They designed a machine to capture the energy in sea waves to power on some pumps. In 1910. another engineer from France, built a device called “oscillating water-column “ to generate electricity from sea waves.  Between 1940 and 1950, the former Japanese naval commander, Yoshio Masada, used different devices at the sea to power navigation lights.

The first commercial-scale wave energy generator was manufactured in 2008 by a manufacturer from Scotland.

Sea wave energy unit – Pelamis Wave Power Ltd

This snake looking sea wave energy unit  is following the vertical movements of the waves up and down. These waves drive a pump that generates electricity.

The power generation of a typical ocean wave energy unit is about 0.75 MW. Experts are expecting this output to get better along with the wave energy technology.

Areas of the world with wave power resource

Successful and profitable use of sea wave energy on a large scale only happens in a few coasts around the world. Coast of the world with sea wave power resource include Scotland, Canada, southern Africa, Australia, and the United States.

5  oceans and 113 seas are an endless source of energy.

While wave energy is available every where in the world, it is important to consider other competing uses of the ocean  such as commercial transport, fishing or environmental concerns in sensitive areas. Some countries have invested more than others. UK and Portugal are currently leading when it comes to sea waves energy.

Devices that harness the energy of the waves

There are different wave energy devices used in converting wave power into electricity. For example, devices turn the oscillating waves into mechanical energy.  Others convert the energy of the waves into air pressure or wave capture devices which convert the energy of the waves into potential energy.  Follow this link to learn more about energy wave devices.

Wave energy generator

Watch this video to learn more about wave energy.

Despite the several problems preventing it from really supplying the world’s energy needs, wave energy will have a definite place in the future of the generation of electricity. Some of the main obstacles to overcome are the challenge  and high cost of operating in the ocean.  Building offshore is more expensive and saltwater, the violent strength of wind and waves are a hostile environment for devices. The good news are, many countries have already funded or promised funding wave energy projects. A recent report published by Market Research Future notes that the wave and tidal energy market is expected to witness significant growth due to the projected large-scale commercial array developments.

More reading:

  1.  Planning the future of wave and tidal energyWave Energy Devices
  2. Wave Energy Devices


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