In the early 1970s, various types of wave energy converters were proposed as concerns surrounding the 1973 oil crisis began to rise. Since then, R&D of wave energy has been growing as more and more investors and engineers have acknowledged the resource’s environmental and economic benefits. According to a 2020 Market Research Report, the global wave energy market is projected to reach USD 107 million by 2025 from an estimated market size of USD 44 million in 2020, at a CAGR of 19.3%.
For coastal regions, an adoption of wave power as the main source of energy could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The waves off U.S. coasts have the estimated potential to produce as much as 2.64 trillion kilowatthours — equivalent to about 64% of the electricity generated in the U.S. in 2018.
What Is Wave Energy?
Wave energy conversion is the process of taking mechanical energy, that is derived from the ocean’s waves, and converting it into electrical energy to power homes, businesses, etc.
Ocean waves are caused by wind blowing along the ocean’s surface. These waves hold a tremendous amount of energy, and because the wind blows consistently and with a lot of force, the water is able to hold continuous waves.
In looking at renewable energy, an important factor to consider is the consistency and predictability of the renewable source being used. Since the ocean is a 24/7 resource, waves are continuously being produced with varying intensity throughout the day. This massive and highly predictable resource puts wave energy amongst one the most reliable sources for alternative energy.
Multiple companies around the world have been able to harness wave energy through the invention of energy converters. Triton WEC, designed and created by Oscilla Power, utilizes an innovative design that adapts to the fluctuating force of the ocean’s waves, regardless of how much fluctuation is occurring.
The Benefits Of Wave Energy
Conversations surrounding the reduction of fossil fuels have been circling the globe long before the proposal of a Green New Deal. In fact, according to an article published in The National Geographic, carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal account for 44% of the world’s total. It is attributed to being the biggest single source cause of rising global temperatures above pre-industrial levels.
The November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment Report found that global temperatures must be kept below 1.5 degrees Celcius (above pre-industrial levels), in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.
As human activity has attributed to a majority of the observed climate change over the past century, protecting against severe consequences of climate change will require global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources. Specifically, 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and net-zero global emissions by 2050, according to the report.
Renewable sources like wave energy produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, allowing for a global reduction of CO2 levels over time. In addition to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, wave energy provides a slew of energy conservation benefits:
- Ocean power is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 gigatons over the next 30 years
- Wave energy takes up a significantly smaller amount of space for the same energy output as other renewable sources (wind, solar) — these converters do not require access to roads or land to be installed
- Wave energy converter devices can extract more power from a smaller volume at lower costs due to its higher energy density
- Wave energy is easy to predict since sea states can be accurately determined 5 days in advance; This determination can then be used to calculate how much energy will be produced
- Because waves are always in motion and hardly interrupted they act as a reliable source of alternative energy
- Waves can travel for thousands of miles and only experience little energy loss
The economic growth of wave energy is largely contributed to investments from manufacturers into the research and development of hydroelectric power. The need for renewable energy will only continue to grow, as the harmful effects of fossil fuels on the environment become more apparent. Wave energy has the potential to account for 25% of energy in the U.S. alone, creating a massive opportunity for economic growth in this sector.