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. 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 Aquamarine Power and Marine Current Turbines.
Hydropower provides 75% of the world's renewable electricity - link



  • Potential of wave power and research
  • UK leading wave power technology
  • Wave power around the world
How wave power works  link              
Short video (2016) showing multiple technology options  - link    

 Potential of wave power and research

March 2014: How oceans could power the future. The oceans contain a huge amount of energy. Ocean current resources are about 800 times denser than wind currents, meaning a 12-mph marine current generates the equivalent amount of force as a 110-mph wind gust. A 2012 report prepared by RE Vision Consulting for the Department of Energy found that the theoretical ocean wave energy resource potential in the U.S. is more than 50% of the annual domestic demand of the entire country. The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately 2 terawatts  -  2 million megawatts or double current world electricity production  -  could be produced from the oceans via wave power. link

(March 2017) New technology from Germany.  Germany is a bit of a late-comer in wave energy, probably due to its short coastline and well developed solar and wind industries. However, in 2014, SINN Power developed a system which floats entirely above the water line, purposely avoiding corrosion and regular maintenance which is much more difficult to handle underwater. The idea is pretty straightforward - the up-and-down motion of the waves lifts the floating bodies of the individual modules. The floating bodies in turn lift a rod that runs through a generator unit. This is how electricity is generated. SINN Power’s modular system is simple enough to be installed at every coast, adaptable to supply both mini-grids and public grids. With Federal Government assistance, which is really pushing for marine technologies now, SINN Power is developing its prototype in Heraklion, Crete. (Video shows how this system operates - link)

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. The goal for the renewables industry is obvious – to harness the immense energy of the sea, and tap into a global market predicted to be worth 1 trillio. 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  (April 2017: EC-OG switches on the Subsea Power Hub (SPH) for the first time link)

U.S. potential Tidal resource potential is typically given in terawatt-hours/year (TWh/yr). The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has completed a recent analysis of the U.S. wave energy resource potential, which estimates the total wave energy resource along the outer continental shelf at 2,640 TWh/yr. That is an enormous potential, considering that just 1 TWh/yr of energy will supply around 93,850 average U.S. homes with power annually. 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

May 2015: Wales launches underwater kite turbine scheme. A unique renewable energy scheme involving underwater “kite-turbines” is being launched off the coast of north Wales.  Twenty  turbines will be anchored off Anglesey and when fully operational should generate enough electricity to power 8,000 homes. Weighing seven tonnes and operating at least 15 metres below the water surface, each kite carries a turbine below it. The kite is tethered by a cable to the sea floor and then “flies” in the tidal stream. It swoops round in a figure-of-eight shape to increase the speed of the water flowing through the turbine. 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

October 2017: Blue Energy: The marine renewables sector starts to show promise. The Orkney Islands are home to the world’s leading centre for the testing of marine renewable energy devices at sea. There are two dominant strands to these trials, with tidal energy typically harnessed through huge underwater turbines, often more than 150 tonnes per turbine, and wave power which can be extracted through a range of prototype technologies. In 2011, the Carbon Trust 2011 estimated as much as 20% of the UK’s total energy supply could come from wave and tidal power. link

August 2017: Scottish tidal power station breaks world record for electricity generation. A tidal power station in the Pentland Firth between mainland Scotland and Orkney has broken the world record for electricity, generating 700 megawatt-hours of electricity in August. link

August  2016: Tidal power breakthrough in Scotland. A power company in Shetland has claimed a breakthrough in the race to develop viable offshore tidal stations after successfully feeding electricity to local homes. The second of five 100kW turbines is due to be installed in the sound this month, sending electricity on a commercial basis into Shetland’s local grid. 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

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.  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

February 2016: Can Scotland become the Saudi Arabia of renewables? In 2008, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond boldly claimed that Pentland Firth, a region in northern Scotland, could be the “Saudi Arabia of renewable marine energy.”  One of the most recent Scottish plans against climate change is to fulfill 100% of its total electricity consumption with renewable energy by 2020. 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

March 2010: 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

May 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

July 2016: Europe backing ‘limitless’ energy project in France.  French energy company ENGIE plans to build a tidal energy project on the western coast of the English Channel aiming to install four tidal turbines with a total generating capacity of 5.6MW. France aims to use renewable energy for 40% of its total electricity production by 2030.  link 

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

February 2015: First wave power connected to grid. The world’s first grid-connected wave power array of wave power generators to be connected to an electricity grid in Australia and worldwide station has been activated off the coast of Western Australia.  During the testing phase, the first 240kW peak capacity CETO 5 wave unit operated successfully for more than 2,000 hours. link

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 2017: Giant turbine in Canada comes through long-term test. The 52-foot-diameter Cape Sharp Tidal turbine, designed to capture the power of the legendary tides of the Bay of Fundy, endured the winter and spring on the seabed in Nova Scotia, generating electricity. Now in port for upgrades, the 1,100-ton machine looks as if it has survived a couple rounds with a powerful adversary. The turbine can generate 2MW of electricity. Based on new data estimates of power generated in the Minas Passage could reach 7,500MW of which 2,500MW could realistically be extracted. link   

August 2016: Wave power support in USA. As much as $40 million may be available to help support the development of a wave-energy testing facility in U.S waters. The Energy Department last year deployed a wave energy prototype dubbed Azura at a test site at Kaneohe Bay off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Developer Northwest Energy Innovations, with help from a $5 million federal grant, tested an earlier prototype off the coast of Oregon in 2014. link

March 2014: FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) has approved a 10-year pilot license for the 600KW Admiralty Inlet Pilot Tidal Project to be located in Puget Sound off Washington state. The project will be grid-connected and is the first U.S. undertaking at such a scale. link     

May 2015: China is planning to build three wave energy test sites off Shandong, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces. 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. 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  (Update) When it comes to this Kuroshio power, the schedule calls for completing the roadmap by the end of 2016 and performing experiments and improvements in ocean waters by the end of 2018. The major goals of the plan are to introduce renewable energy in Taiwan and foster this industry, which it will move forward on by cooperating with other countries. 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

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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