Wave power is a relatively unknown solution as a clean energy source, yet its  uninterrupted and continuous source of energy has the potential to be among the most enduring suppliers of the world's future needs if some obstacles can be overcome. One major problem with most wave technology is that waves have too much energy. This page will give an idea of the huge potential as well as the challenges, and explore how the technology is being adapted around the world. Britain has 35 out of the world’s nearly 130 wave energy and tidal stream device developers, which include Pelamis, Aquamarine Power and Marine Current Turbines.

Wave energy is generally considered to be the most concentrated and least variable form of renewable energy. It is the high power density of wave energy that suggests it has the capacity to become the lowest cost renewable energy source. The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately 2 terawatts (2 million megawatts), about double current world electricity production, could be produced from the oceans via wave power. It is estimated that 1 million gigawatt hours of wave energy hits Australian shores annually and that 25% of the UK's current power usage could be supplied by harvesting its wave resource. link

Wave energy is a renewable, zero emission source of power. As water is about 800 times denser than air, the energy density of waves exceeds that of wind many times over, dramatically increasing the amount of energy available. Waves are predictable days in advance, making it easy to match supply and demand. The UK Marine Foresight Panel estimates that just 0.1% of available marine energy could supply five times the global demand for energy. link      
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Latest news:

May 19 2016: UK and Canada compete for tidal power leadership. Two countries with the highest tides in the world, Canada and the UK, both claim to be the world leaders in creating electricity from the tides. They are among a group of coastal states including China, South Korea, the US and Australia that are hoping to harness the enormous power of their local twice-daily tides to tap a new and reliable supply of electricity. Unlike wind and solar energy, tidal power is entirely predictable. If it can be tapped on a large scale as a power source, it will provide reliable base load power for any grid system.  link



  • Potential of wave power and research
  • UK leading wave power technology
  • Wave power around the world
Potential of wave power and research

According to Andy Baldock, a UK wave energy analyst from engineering firm Black & Veatch, "there is a growing feeling that the technology can be successful."  Research into wave power started around 20 years ago he says, originating in high-population, energy-hungry places like the UK and Europe that have few natural energy sources. Progress continued in wave-like spurts and lulls until recent times when the more urgent push for renewable energy sources stoked research and development funding. "There's a phenomenal number of [wave technology] devices out there, with several thousand patents. Over 100 ideas have been actively pursued, of which around 50 have had a reasonable amount of work done on them and around 20 are still being pursued quite seriously. At least ten are planning to do near full scale prototypes," says Baldock.  link

August 2012: Orkney Islands, leader in green energy, launches wave competition.     In the Scottish Orkney islands there are hundreds of small wind turbines dotted across the islands, and more than a dozen large commercial machines. On Monday, as the wind gusted to 45mph, they were powering homes on the Scottish mainland with surplus energy, feeding more than 23MW of electricity into the grid. (Pictured at right: A tidal turbine in the fast-flowing waters off Orkney's Eday island.) Orkney has quietly but very deliberately become arguably the most self-sufficient community in the British Isles for its energy, and is home to many of the world's most advanced wave and tidal power machines. Four marine energy firms have entered their wave- and tide-powered devices for a 10m prize. To win the competition, these machines must produce at least 100 gigawatt hours of electricity over a continuous two-year period between now and 2017. So far only four tidal- and wave-power devices being tested have produced electricity for sustained periods. Even then, that was over a matter of days, not months. There is scepticism within the renewables industry about the purpose of the Saltire prize: the costs of entering it far outweigh its value. The real goal for the renewables industry is so obvious – to harness the immense energy of the sea, and tap into a global market predicted to be worth 1tn – that its existence changes little. Estimates suggest that around the Scottish islands, tidal and wave power could generate 38,500 gigawatt hours a year, equivalent to three coal-fired power stations as large as Drax in north Yorkshire, the UK's largest. link

February 2012: Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to two terawatts (TW) of electricity. The World Energy Council has estimated that wave power could produce as much energy in a year as two thousand oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power plants. A U.S. Dept. of Energy report also show that water power, including hydro, wave, tidal, and other water power resources, have the potential to provide 15% of the nation's electricity by 2030. link 

September 2008: Roughly 100 small companies around the world are working on converting the sea’s power to electricity. Many operate in Europe, where governments have pumped money into the industry. Companies and governments alike are betting that over time, costs will come down. Right now, however, little electricity is being generated from the ocean except at scattered test sites around the world. Despite hurdles to overcome, many see wave's potential as much greater than wind power.  link

September 2011: Potential predicted to be 240GW by 2050. According to a study by the Carbon Trust up to 240GW of capacity of marine energy could be installed worldwide by 2050. Out of these, 75% could be coming from wave, and the remainder by tidal energy. The total market for both wave and tidal energies could in a high scenario amount to up 460 billion ($740 billion) over the next decades. This explains why up to a hundred companies are developing devices in this sector. However, the study warns that only modest deployment could be achieved by the end of this decade. Indeed uncertainty remains high over the various designs and governmental policies. link

October 2009: Under water ‘kites’ to generate wave energy. A new concept of underwater wave energy using a simple 7 ton kite turbine has been developed, a spin-off from the Swedish firm Saab. The system could generate 18 terawatt hours of energy annually, enough to provide nearly 4 million British households with reliable green energy every year. The kite twirls in a repeating figure eight pattern that increases the ocean velocity tenfold. link

Wave power first developed in Scotland 
January 2009: The Scottish Government announced one of the world's largest wave stations will be constructed off the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, creating up to 70 jobs and advancing Scotland's lead in renewable energy. Ministers have granted consent for npower renewables application to operate a wave farm with a 4MW capacity at Siadar, Isle of Lewis, Western Isles.  link
The development of the first subsea commercial wave farm by a Scottish company took another important step forward today (February 20 2007) with news that Scottish wave energy company, AWS Ocean Energy Ltd. based in Alness, Ross-shire, has secured 2.128 million funding from the Scottish Executive. The funds will be used to develop and commercialize AWS' Archimedes Wave Swing, one of the few proven technologies worldwide for generating clean, renewable electricity from the ocean's waves. The support for AWS is part of a 13 million support package for Scottish marine energy developers funded by the Scottish Executive, which aims to establish Scotland as a world leader in marine energy.

UK leading wave power technology

The British coastline provides almost half of Europe’s wave resources
and over a quarter of its tidal energy resources.

Britain is sitting on the biggest source of marine energy in Europe. Tapping tidal and wave energy could one day produce about 10% of the world's electricity consumption, so the incentive to develop turbines, hydrofoils and ducts which can convert this energy into watts is enormous. While the costs of wind power have decreased by 80% in the last 25 years with design improvement and economies of scale, marine power is starting from a lower base and Britain is a world leader in this technology. link

August 2015: Revolutionary tidal fence set to trap sea’s power. A British company has announced plans for an array of unique marine turbines that can operate in shallower and slower-moving water than current designs without endangering marine life. The turbines will in time produce electricity more cheaply than off-shore wind farms. The new design, in what is called a tidal energy fence, is a string of linked turbines one kilometre long and will be placed in the Bristol Channel. Total output is 30MW and can supply around 30,000 homes in the UK.   link

August 2014: Scotland building world’s largest tidal array. Scotland is building what it calls the world’s biggest tidal array in the Pentland Firth in northern Scotland. Once built, the tidal array is projected to provide enough electricity to power 175,000 homes and will also create up to 100 jobs. Construction is slated to begin later this year, and the first phase will install four 1.5MW turbines that will start supplying power to the grid in 2016. Overall, the project will involve installing up to 269 turbines on the seafloor, which will capture the energy of ocean tides. According to the government, the U.K. has about 50% of Europe’s energy tidal energy resources, and if developed fully, wave and tidal stream energy could meet 20% of the U.K.’s demand for power. link

May 2013: World’s biggest wave farm approved off Scottish coast. Full consent has been given for a 40MW farm off the north-west coast of Lewis, enough to power nearly 30,000 homes. Wave energy firm Aquamarine Power said it would begin installing its Oyster devices in the next few years, once grid infrastructure is put in place. link

May 2015:  Wales launches 25m underwater kite turbine scheme to generate enough electricity to power 8,000 homes - link  

September 2011: Wave and tidal power almost ready for mass consumption. Scottish minister Alex Salmond predicts wave and tidal power devices are close to producing electricity for mass consumption for the first time following a surge in investment. The latest wave and tide machines being tested in Scottish waters were expected to become commercially viable by 2015 with several hundred megawatts of installed capacity. Until now, the presumption was that wave and tidal power was still up to a decade away from full-scale production. So far only 1400MW of wave and tidal power have been licensed compared to 7GW of wind power, but while wave power is currently very expensive, by 2020 it is expected to be more competitive than wind. link

September 2010: The Wave Hub device (at right)  installed off the coast of Cornwall after seven years in the making, further establishes the UK as the world's leading test centre for marine energy. UK science minister David Willetts said "the UK is already leading the way with 25% of the world's wave and tidal technologies being developed here.  . . The sector could be worth 2bn by 2050 and it has the potential to create up to 16,000 jobs by 2040."  Wave Hub will be on the seabed for the next 25 years, helping the world gain invaluable knowledge about how to tap the vast energy potential of our oceans in the pursuit of clean, abundant, renewable energy and cement the UK’s position at the forefront of this green power revolution. The Wave Hub device will now undergo a series of tests before the first marine energy device is deployed next year. (Read more)    The 20MW Wave Hub is a 42m marine energy testing hub slated to be the largest test site for wave energy technology, to which wave power devices can be connected and their performance evaluated. The Wave Hub electrical socket that will connect potential wave energy devices in order to test electrical output was laid on the ocean bed last night and the entire system is due to undergo tests in the next few months. link

Severn Estuary Plan -

The Severn Bore is one of Britain's few truly spectacular natural phenomena. It is a large surge wave that can be seen in the estuary of the River Severn, where the tidal range is the 2nd highest in the world, being as much as 50 feet. As many as 60 bores occur throughout the world where the river estuary is the right shape and the tidal conditions are such that the wave is able to form. The Severn Bore (one of 8 in the UK) is one of the biggest in the world. (By far the biggest bore in the world is the Ch'ient'ang'kian  in China.) The shape of the Severn estuary is such that the water is funnelled into an increasingly narrow channel as the tide rises, thus forming the large wave. As well as the width of the river decreasing rapidly, then so does the depth of the river also change rapidly, thereby forming a funnel shape. Therefore as the incoming tide travels up the estuary, it is routed into an ever decreasing channel. Consequently the surge wave or bore is formed. link

October 2010: Severn estuary plan scrapped. Plans to build a 10-mile hydroelectric barrage across the Severn estuary in western England, which could generate 8.6GW of zero-carbon electricity from the Severn, the equivalent of eight large coal-fired power stations, have been scrapped. The project was to have supplied 5% of the UKs energy requirements. link    
September 2013 - UK government ruled out proceeding on current plans, but it could be revived and given serious consideration if major changes were made to the scheme, with new environmental studies and reassurances over financing and technology. link

April 2012: UK Crown Estate awards trio of new wave and tidal leases. The agreements clear the way for the developers to move ahead with project plans, including consultations with local stakeholders and finalising applications to obtain consents from government bodies, Marine Scotland and the Marine Management Organisation. The Crown Estate will turn the agreements into full leases for construction and operation once consents are granted. These new projects take the total number under development around the UK to 36. link      

August 2010: 1300 tonne one MW tidal power turbine unveiled. The device, with two sets of blades, is the largest yet built, and is capable of supplying energy to 1,000 homes. Standing 73 feet tall, it is being transported to a test site in northern Scotland.  link

May 2010: Scotland's dream of becoming the "Saudi Arabia of marine energy" took another step towards reality this week after two of the UK's leading wave energy firms unveiled full-scale demonstration devices. Two Scottish firms roll out the next generation devices. Pelamis and Aquamarine Power advance towards full-scale operations. link 
Six sites have been allocated for wave energy developments potentially generating 600 megawatts of power along with four for tidal projects, also generating 600 MW. The companies are to push forward plans to generate enough electricity to supply 750,000 homes. link

Wave power around the world

June 2015: Tidal power shows strength in Europe, Canada. Backers of tidal power technology say 2015 is going to be a big year on the road to commercialization. Utility-scale projects in France, the UK and Canada all show promise, with turbine manufacturer OpenHydro touted as the first company likely to get two machines deployed together in the water and connected to the grid. The world's first marine energy test facility was established in 2003 in Scotland. France is working on a pre-commercial pilot farm. link

September 2015:
World’s first grid-connected wave power switched on. The world’s first grid-connected wave power station has been activated off the coast of Western Australia. After more than a decade of testing and demonstrations, Australian company Carnegie Wave Energy has switched on a pilot project that has begun feeding wave-generated electricity into a local WA grid. The company’s technology named CETO after a Greek goddess of the sea converts ocean swell into zero-emission renewable power and zero-emission desalinated freshwater. The company says the system is different from other wave energy devices as it operates under water where it is safer from large storms [and corrosion] and invisible from the shore.

February 2012: Tidal power farm for Gujarat, India. Atlantis Resources Corp. plans a tidal power farm with a capacity of 50 MW with the possibility to increase it to more than 200 MW. When complete, this farm will be the first of its type, not just within the country, but also in Asia. The Gujarat assembly will comprise of 50 turbines of 1 MW each. Atlantis has decided to set up a farm in Gujarat because of its untapped tidal energy reserves in the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Kambhat. The Gulf of Kutch extends over an impressive area of 7,300 sq. km and has an average depth of 30 meters.  link

Wave Power in the USA.

September 2012: Breakthrough in USA - 5MW tidal power project commences in Maine. For the first time in the western hemisphere, electricity flowed from an ocean-based turbine to the electricity grid. Ocean Renewable Power Company won the first contract with the Maine Public Utilities Commission to provide up to 5 megawatts of tidal power. A significant hurdle was cleared in that long process when the connection went live Thursday. The first turbine generator unit will produce 180 kilowatts at peak, enough to power 25-30 homes. link    

June 2010: Desalination and wave power coming to Texas. Ocean waves off the coast of Freeport will soon generate clean electricity and fresh water through a wave-powered demonstration facility to be developed by Independent Natural Resources Inc. A three-month study in 2007 showed that the plant could convert ocean waves to electricity over twice as good as other wave technology out in the market to date. Dubbed the Seadog pump, the facility will use 18 wave-powered pumps to draw water that will turn a small electric turbine to power a 3,000-gallon-per-day desalination plant. Renew Blue Inc., a subsidiary of I.N.R.I., plans to bottle the desalinated water using corn-based plastic. link

Wave power coming to California. Pacific Gas & Electric, the large Northern California utility, has signed a power purchase agreement with Finavera Renewables for 2 megawatts of electricity that will come from a wave farm, which Finavera will build 2.5 miles off the coast near California's Humboldt County. Ideally, the wave farm will start producing power in 2012. It will offset 245 tons of carbon dioxide annually, and if it succeeds, Finavera will expand the wave farm to 100 megawatts. link  May 2011: PG&E pulls out

March 2011: Oregon. Columbia is developing technologies that will generate energy between one and three miles offshore of Puget Sound in Washington state where the available wave energy is greatest. We believe that direct drive systems, which avoid the use of pneumatic and hydraulic conversion steps, are more efficient, more reliable and easier to maintain, and are therefore the most likely to deliver the lowest cost of energy. Having completed tank testing, Columbia Power has deployed an intermediate scale prototype near Seattle and code named SeaRay. The device is tuned to the Puget Sound environment and is controlled remotely from Corvallis Oregon. link      

April 2010
: China proposes 10GW wave energy project along its coastline: Israeli marine renewables firm SDE Energy announced it will be completing construction of a 1MW marine power plant in China by the end of April. According to SDE, wave energy could potentially supply four times more energy per square meter than wind energy. This power plant is the first of a 10GW marine energy project for the coastline of China. link

August 2007: Kuroshio Current in Taiwan promises over 1,000MW of power. The Kuroshio is the world's second-largest warm current after the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean. The Kuroshio is known for its strong, fast flow as it passes seas near the Philippines and Taiwan before running northeast toward Japan. Taiwan hopes to build a power plant that will use a strong current flowing off its east coast to generate electricity, an official said yesterday. The plant is still in the planning stage, but once built, it would be the first plant in Asia to make use of the Kuroshio Current that flows along the Pacific Ocean to the east of the country. It may become Taiwan's biggest asset in terms of a new energy source, more so than solar or wind power. (Taiwan imports 98% of its fuel and has been seeking new energy sources, including wind power.) link

August 2013: Zero emissions desalination project, plus energy.
A new project in Australia aims to create freshwater by harnessing the kinetic force of ocean waves. Run by the Perth-based firm Carnegie Wave Energy in cooperation with the Water Corporation, the plant will use Carnegie’s proprietary CETO wave energy technology to power reverse osmosis desalination. Reverse osmosis desalination has been in use for several decades and works simply enough: high pressure is used to force saltwater through a membrane, producing drinkable freshwater on the other end. Traditionally the pressure is provided with electric pumps powered by fossil fuels, resulting in both CO2 emissions and lots of points for energy loss. But instead of relying on those electric pumps, Carnegie is using the latest technology to supply that pressure with wave energy instead.  Some of that hydraulic energy is also converted into electric power as needed. The resulting system not only cuts out all CO2 emissions, it also greatly reduces the points where energy can be lost.  link


Pelamis off-shore wave energy in Portugal 

Portugal plans to produce 45% of its energy from solar, wind and wave power by 2010. A Portuguese energy company called Enersis is funding a commercial wave energy project in Northern Portugal. Construction began at the end of 2006. The project will use Pelamis wave generator technology (manufactured by Ocean Power Delivery) to harness energy from the ocean. After two decades of research and testing at the Lisbon Technical Institute, the first stage of this ocean energy project is intended to produce 2.25 megawatts and power homes through the nation's state-run electrical grid system. Ocean Power Delivery is considered to be the world's leading ocean energy company.  Pelamis Update - March 19 2009: The three 750-kilowatt wave machines Pelamis had installed off of the coast of Portugal last year were largely working as expected before they were pulled ashore in November. It's a new technology, so problems and unforeseen difficulties were occurring. Still, power was being fed to the grid. At times, the individual devices were producing around 200 kilowatts of power. link

November 2014: Setback for Pelamis. The Edinburgh-based firm has been testing its wave energy converters at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney for a number of years. But in a statement Pelamis said it had "reluctantly" moved to appoint an administrator and is seeking a buyer who could protect the business. Pelamis is the world's most advanced wave energy technology company. link Nov.22 2014: Scotland’s Energy Minister announces a new body, Wave Energy Scotland, to be set up which  would bring together the sector's best engineering and academic minds. link)

December 2010: Scientists worry about ocean energy's effect on sea-creature migration. Scientists increasingly believe these marine creatures and others use the earth's magnetic fields to navigate vast distances.  link

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