Wave Power – Harnessing the Ocean’s Energy

By Emma Bailey

The topic of climate change climbs increasingly into everyday discussion. All over the world, individuals, institutions and businesses have recognized the importance of addressing the issue and taking a proactive approach. Nonetheless, there are many clean sources of reliable power we have yet to fully develop. Capturing the power of waves is an exciting development in the field of renewable energy. If technology can begin to capture its continuous output, wave power promises solutions that could transform the way we obtain energy forever.

Marine Energy

Waves occur when wind transfers its energy to the water’s surface. A wave’s size depends on wind speed, wind duration, and the area over which the wind is blowing. Machines capable of exploiting wave power are generally known as “wave energy converters.” Water accounts for nearly 70% of the Earth’s surface - with such an immense resource for generating electricity, wave power technologies are being developed to take advantage of its potential and are beginning to indicate genuine progress.

Current Projects

There are various projects focused on harnessing the power of marine energy to solve today's energy crises.

The SeaGen system is a project focused on harnessing tidal energy through a system of rotors mounted to a cross-beam anchored to the ocean floor. The European Marine Energy Centre was established to develop the marine industry in the UK and around the world. Other marine energy initiatives that utilize unique technology to harness marine energy include the Marine Current Turbines and Pelamis' Wave Energy Converters.

Marine Current Turbines already account for approximately 50 percent of Europe's tidal energy capacity. The Pelamis Company’s Wave Energy Converters are part of an advanced project of wave power systems that converts the kinetic energy of the ocean's waves into electricity that is used to power cities. The companies technology uses the motion of ocean surface waves to create electricity. Their machines are made of flexible sections that bend and move as waves pass. The motion generated by the waves is then converted into electricity. These innovative projects are already making a difference in energy consumption around the world and they will help pave the way for more marine energy harnessing technology in the future.

The Future of Marine Energy

Adoption of marine energy power sources is slowly increasing around the world, with more than 63 percent of Canada's electricity consumption sourced from 190 tidal power sites around the country. With extensive coastal and inland water, Alberta Energy has estimated that these sites have a capacity of 42,000 MW (total mean annual wave power) which adds up to more than 63 percent of the country’s annual total consumption.

If this type of technology can be made to work at scale, it could have a significant advantage over other types of renewable power, namely wind and solar. The UK is making major headway in marine energy research and development as well, establishing tidal stream projects as a top priority. Though estimates vary, the UK has one of the largest marine energy resources in the world – studies put it at more than 10GW, representing about 50% of Europe’s tidal energy capacity. Scotland alone is estimated to hold approximately 25% of Europe's tidal energy potential.

The research shows that renewable energy use is on the rise, but it is essential to keep raising awareness of the valuable resources marine energy provides. Natural tides supply a continuous and reliable source of energy. With the development of simple yet powerful technology that converts waves into electrical power the more awareness of its capabilities the faster it will be adopted around the world.

Scientists, corporations and governments are finding creative ways to harness renewable energy for the good of the planet, and marine energy is clearly the next step. From clean water resources to more efficient electrical plants, the ocean is the most expansive renewable energy resources that exists.