Wave Energy Pros and Cons

by Andy Goldman on January 21, 2013

Wave energy is a promising Renewable Energy Source, RES, and it is one of the two sources of Ocean Energy. A quick way to understand Wave energy is to go through the wave energy pros and cons so that we will get an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of wave energy and be able to appreciate this RES.

Wave Energy

Wave energy is the energy of the surface waves of the oceans and this energy can be captured to do useful work such as the production of electricity, pumping off water or power the water desalination plants. Wave energy is converted to useful electricity using Wave Energy Converters, WEC.

Wave energy has great potential which is estimated at around a 2TW worldwide. It goes without saying that there are both advantages and disadvantages associated to this renewable energy source and the major wave energy pros and cons identified are listed below starting with the pros.

Wave Energy Pros

  1. Potential: According to estimations there is a lot of potential from the use of Wave energy. Based on current estimates and efficiency lelvels of the wave energy converters we can exploit the waves to get about 2TW of energy power so that we can turn it into useful energy like electricity. This means that exploitation of wave energy is still at its infancy.
  2. Green: Wave energy is green, meaning that it does not emit any hazardous for the environment polluting gases thus contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions and towards the goal for a cleaner environment.
  3. Renewable Source: Wave energy is a Renewable Energy Source, RES, with all the benefits such a source would have. It is renewable and as long as we have waves we can capture their energy. Of course waves will exist for as long as we have winds.
  4. Consistent Wave Power: Waves are consistent throughout the day and thus electricity production is predictable and overall it can be planed and properly managed. This makes wave energy more consistent than Wind and Solar Energy.
  5. Low Operational Costs: Once the Wave Energy Converters, WECs, are installed the wave energy plant has low operational costs which makes such an investment attractive.
  6. Minimal aesthetic pollution: Wave energy converters are installed either on the surface of the water or are submerged in the water thus affecting the surrounding as little as possible. Many plants are built offshore thus affecting the aesthetics even less.
  7. No pollution danger: There is no danger of polluting the surrounding area in case of a disaster like there is with fossil fuel plants. Quite frequently accidents at oil rigs pollute the surrounding areas this can never be the case with wave energy plants.
  8. Shoreline Protection: A positive side effect wave energy plants have is the fact that the capturing of the energy of the waves means that the power with which they hit the shoreline is less, thus causing less damages and less corrosion of the shores.
  9. Wave energy plant size: Wave energy plants can be built at various sizes contrary to fossil fuel plants like a nuclear plant. This means that the plants can be built according to needs and based on budget availability.
  10. Wave density: The power density of wave energy is greater than wind energy thus making it more efficient.

wave energy pros and cons

Wave Energy Cons

The Wave energy cons are the following

  1. Cost: Cost is the number one disadvantage of Wave energy since the deployment of a wave energy plant and the installation of wave energy converters, WECs, involves installation of equipment in the sea, and in most cases offshore, which takes the cost even higher. The cost of equipment used is high due to the fact that Wave Energy is relatively a new technology and a lot of research is under way in this area to make it more efficient and less costly.
  2. Effects on the environment: Even though wave energy plants may be built in such a way so that they would not be visible, there may be cases which their presence affects tourism and do not get local acceptance due to fears of a negative impact on the local economies.
  3. Effects on Marine Life: In this case we may have disruption of marine life in the area due to the building or the operation of a wave energy plant. This is something which cannot be avoided but it may be controlled and minimized.
  4. Breakdowns: Wave Energy Converters, WECs, are installed in the sea and in many cases offshore and thus they are exposed to strong ocean waves, storms and certainly sea water. These are factors which may lead to their frequent breakdown which results to loss of service, production of electricity, loss of income and an increase of operational costs.
  5. Implementation Base: The installed base of wave energy plants is low compared to wind and solar energy plants. This means that the experiences which can be shared are less than those of other renewable energy sources.
  6. Technology Improvement: The rate of improvement of the technology has been low and much lower than other RES technologies. This has an effect on cost and rate of adoption both of which follow the same pace.
  7. Electricity Transmission: Quite often wave energy plants are built in areas which are remote and far from the grid and at the same away from the need for electricity. This makes the connectivity to the grid expensive and difficult.
  8. Specific locations: Wave energy plants cannot be built anywhere. They are built where there is sufficient wave power to justify the investment. In some areas where the installation of a wave energy plant is justified due to sufficient wave strength there may not be sufficient funds to be invested and vice versa.

We have tried to compile a list of the wave energy pros and cons and present the facts objectively so that one can get an insight of the wave energy and be able with the presented facts to initiate a complete study about wave energy.

About the Author

Andy Goldman

Andy Goldman is a 27-year veteran in the service industry with managerial, strategic, operational and consulting experience. Has managed teams of 5-45 people and has also managed several multidiscipline projects. He has worked in Europe and the USA and holds a BSc and MSc in Electrical Engineering and an MBA with a minor in Finance. For the past 5 years he has been an enthusiast of renewable technologies. Article by Andy Goldman You can connect with Andy Goldman at Google+

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