Definition of Wave Energy

What Is Wave Energy?


Wave energy is a renewable energy whereby we capture the energy that is being generated naturally by waves. Waves get their energy from the wind passing over the surface of the sea as well and can transmit their energy over long distances with little degradation; wave energy is considered a significant renewable energy resource.

The irregular and oscillating flow of wave energy in oceans – kinetic energy as it is called – has tremendous energy potential and if harnessed could provide a tremendous addition to a clean energy system. The energy in a wave is determined and calculated by wave height, speed, length, and the density of the water. Though most wave technologies are intended to be installed near the ocean’s surface, they can be used in nearshore, offshore, and far offshore locations depending on where the resources lie.

Wave power systems are not practical everywhere due to the variation in wave energy. Ideal locations for wave energy farms exist on the western coasts of Scotland, Northern Canada, Northwest America, Southern Africa, and Australia. Large commercial wave farms have only begun to be tested, with several challenges arising through the trials:

  • Wave energy is irregular which can create problems with absorption rates
  • Wave energy devices need to withstand major oceanic assaults such as storms and saltwater corrosion
  • Currently wave power is very expensive to the point where it is not yet competitive with fossil fuel energies
  • State and federal legislations as well as public outcries over the degradation of ocean views are stalling several major projects
  • There are some concerns about the environmental impact of wave energy for marine populations
  • Wave energy farms can result in the displacement of fishing grounds, which can have a negative impact on local economies
  • Toxic leaks or spills can occur when liquids used in wave power systems are accidentally released, contaminating local habitats

The potential for wave energy is truly tremendous, with some estimates of deep-water wave power resources creating upwards of 10 terawatts, which is a little less than the amount needed to supply worldwide energy consumption. 

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