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Choosing the location of a Wave Energy Converter

After reading the recent article Introduction to Wave Energy Converters one question which comes to mind is: How do you choose the location of a Wave Energy Converter, WEC? What are the factors which should be taken into consideration when choosing the WEC location? The answer to these questions is important for the Wave Energy sector and for the success of any Wave energy capturing project.

Probably the 6 most important factors that need to be considered when choosing the location of a Wave Energy Converter, WEC, are the following:

  1. Consistency of the wave energy resource on an annual basis. This is important or probably the most important factor since we would want the wave energy to be consistent throughout the year so that better planning can done and thus have the maximum benefit from the installed WECs.  Currents and waves in most areas are seasonal and it is important to find a location where there is the minimum variation between the peak season and the low season. Seasonality is a factor which can affect the feasibility of a wave energy project.
  2. Proximity to the grid.  Wave energy which is converted to electricity needs to be transmitted to locations where there is electricity consumption and thus need to be connected to the grid. If no grid connection is available in the area then the right infrastructure needs to be built so that the electricity produced will become useful.
  3. The mean wave energy flux.  This is an important factor and it is measured in Kw/m. The energy a wave carries is the combination of the kinetic energy due to the motion of the water and the potential energy due to the height of the waves. The energy flux is critical to ocean waves and it is the rate of change of energy density. In simple terms it can thought of as the energy the wave has in it.
  4. Electricity Prices.  The price at which the electricity produced will be bought by the local electricity company is critical for the business case of the wave energy installation. There are usually special tariffs subsidized by local governments as part of their incentives to promote the production of electricity from renewable green energy sources. This means that the selected site should have government support before any investment should be made.
  5. The climate at which the WEC will operate. The climate and the conditions at which the WEC will operate are important factors in choosing the WEC location. The conditions of the sea, the temperature, the wind velocity are factors that are brought in the design of a WEC and thus affect its price.
  6. Any user interest conflicts for WECs.  This factor has to do with the human factor and the local interests and conflicts in the area. There are people or groups of people who may react to a possible installation in their area. Such groups are the surfers in the area since surfers and the related industries are found in the areas where there are waves thus the two cannot coexist. Other interest groups may be the local fishermen or the green party of the area who may react to an installation out of belief that the WEC installation will affect the environment in other words there will be environmental concerns. The site that would be selected should be one for which you can easily get an approval or permit to build it.

There are arguments that most WEC technologies are site specific and thus in general terms we can say that there is no one WEC suitable for every location. Each Wave Energy Converter needs to be designed and configured for the destination site. This of course means that it is important to gather all the necessary data involving the site as accurately as possible. This makes the data history of the site a vital component of the decision about the selection of a site.

Other secondary factors for choosing the location of WECs

There are many factors perhaps of secondary importance for choosing the location for installing Wave Energy Converters, WECs. These factors have to do with the decision whether the wave energy installation will be at the shoreline, nearshore or offshore. Some of these factors are:

  • Ocean Salinity levels
  • Ocean floor configuration and anchorage facilities
  • Ocean currents treadmill
  • Wave activity from other sources and areas
  • Migration zones

The economics of a Wave Energy Converter, WEC, installation

As it is understood all of the factors mentioned earlier are factors which affect the business case for building a wave energy installation. The Return of Investment, ROI, and the payback period are certainly issues which concern anyone who wants invest and build a WEC installation. The different policies of countries like the USA or the European Union, EU, affect the selection of the site for installing WECs.

Wave energy is an important and promising renewable green energy source and if we are to capture this energy through wave energy converters we need to make sure that we will increase the success and return of our investment with the selection of the best site possible to install the WECs.