As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.
This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Wave Energy.
Summary – Wave Energy Pros & Cons
- Is renewable energy – isn’t finite like fossil fuels
- Is green energy – no emissions when in operation
- Huge potential for large scale energy supply in the long term
- Is generally more reliable than wind and solar (because of how wave patterns work)
- Has a high power output and efficiency
- Can utilise offshore wave farms as opposed to on-shore ones (which gives it more flexibility and potential)
- Huge upfront costs
- Maintenance could be difficult and costly
- Needs more funding and research for technology and development
- Although generally more reliable and consistent than wind and solar, waves can vary in their patterns and intensity year to year, and season to season
- Onshore wave farms can be damaging
- Onshore wave farms can be limiting
- Less spots overall to put onshore wave farms
- Offshore wave farms can be costly to install
Wave energy is in a similar position to tidal energy. It is renewable, green, and like wave energy, it has big potential for future energy generation on large scales in the long term. However, at this stage, there needs to be further development and technological advances before it become competitive commercially, and before it becomes feasible and effective on a large scale. It’s more a prospective energy source at this stage (although it could join the likes of solar and wind energy in some countries in the long term with its potential for large scale green renewable energy).
*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.
What Is Wave Energy?
Uses wave energy converters in wave farms installed onshore or offshore in the ocean to create energy.
Wave farms have been created and are in use in Europe, using floating Pelamis Wave Energy converters. Most wave power systems include the use of a floating buoyed device and generate energy through a snaking motion, or by mechanical movement from the waves peaks and troughs.
Wave Energy Pros
- Green Energy – like with tidal energy, there is no greenhouse gases produced from operation
- Renewable – since waves are created from wind energy, and wind energy is created from the sun – wave energy is renewable. So, we’ve got at least another 5 billion years of wave energy left.
- Potential For Energy Generation Is Massive – The worldwide potential of wave energy is estimated to be around 2 TW. The energy density is typically around 30-40 kW for every meter (2.2 feet) of wave along the shore. As we go further into the ocean 100kW for every meter is not uncommon. Ability to produce energy at scale is a possibility
- Can Be Reliable – compared to wind and solar. Waves are hardly interrupted and almost always in motion. But, the amount of energy that is being transported through waves does vary every year and from season to season. On the northern hemisphere, the average value of November and May could be different with a factor of two or more. Winter is also usually a better season for waves.
- High Power Output & Efficiency – A wave farm that is occupying less than a half square mile of an ocean would generate more than 30 MW of power…the equivalent of 20.000 British homes
- Can Utilise Offshore As Opposed To Shore Based Wave Farms – there is larger potential in offshore waves.
Wave Energy Cons
- Huge Upfront Costs Expected – wave power is in the early stages of development, which makes speculating on costs harder. Wave resources, connections to the power grid and the lifespan of the technology are just a few factors that result in different costs for different projects. Power plants cannot be developed without sufficient funding from the governments.
- Maintenance Could Be Difficult & Costly – many of the parts that are involved in wave power generation require regular maintenance. The fact that some of these parts are under the water does not make it any easier – or cheaper
- Needs More Funding & Research – to develop technology, push prices down and make it easier to use and get data back on.
- Can Sometimes Be Unreliable – Some reports say that wave energy can be difficult to harness due to the unpredictability of the ocean and wave direction.
- Onshore Farms Have Limitations – can cause conflicts with tourism and local acceptance. Due to this, coastal installations and facilities on land have to meet higher restrictions in terms of size and location.
- Onshore Wave Farms Can Be Damaging – to the environment and ocean wildlife during construction and installation. But, more data is needed on this.
- Offshore Wave Farms Are Expensive – as opposed to onshore.
- Less Overall, & Less Suitable Places To Put Onshore Wave Farms – as opposed to offshore wave farms.
– energyinformative.org, and efficientgreenpower.com