Waves – the largest untapped energy source in the world

The global theoretical potential of wave power has been calculated at 29,500 TWh/year, ten times the current total electricity consumption of the European Union. With such an enormous global resource, wave power has the potential to be an important part of the future energy mix.

But is there not enough energy in more mature renewable energy technologies?

The answer is no. Wind and solar power have expanded rapidly on land but are facing challenges with lack of available space, negative visual impact and noise pollution. Wind power is expanding rapidly also offshore but at higher cost.

There is furthermore an increasing problem with grid stability, resulting from the increasing share of wind and solar power. This pushes the need for large amounts of energy storage to make sure power is available when needed, adding to the cost of electricity. The energy in ocean waves is accumulated from wind blowing across the water surface over large distances. The energy content of waves is therefore not only more concentrated but also changes more slowly and with less variation, compared to the energy content of the wind. Wave power can therefore provide more predictable production with less variation resulting in less need for energy storage.

Wave power is a suitable option for remote and off-grid applications, due to the high utilization of the installed capacity (capacity factor), coming from the nature of the resource. Wave power can replace polluting and expensive diesel-powered production on remote locations such as the Canary or Caribbean Islands, as well as provide power to offshore industries such oil & gas platforms and fish farms.

Challenges to overcome

The specific challenges with wave power is that waves have slow, very powerful, oscillating motions with high and random variation of size and energy content from wave to wave. Wave energy converters must operate reliably in the harsh marine environment, capture energy efficiently over a wide range of wave conditions, while being resilient to the most extreme conditions, and doing so cost efficiently.

The complexity of this challenge has resulted in an internationally accepted staged development pathway, a framework for maturing ocean energy devices from concepts, over prototype testing in scale and full-size, to commercial deployment. In each stage the solution is ensured to be viable from all perspective and most importantly in terms of levelized cost of energy.

Read more about how we overcome these challenges here

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Ocean Energy Europe is the voice of the ocean energy sector in Europe and the largest network of ocean energy professionals in the world.

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Ocean Energy Systems (OES) is the short name for the Technology Collaboration Programme on Ocean Energy Systems, an intergovernmental collaboration between countries, founded in 2001, which operates under a framework established by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris.

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