By Dean Ward

Since completing my dissertation on the viability of wave energy and design of a new wave energy converter, I have kept up-to-date on the progress made within the industry, and more specifically whether wave energy has a place in the market

When most people think of renewable energy generation, they think of solar, wind or maybe even tidal, but what about Wave Energy? With 71 percent of the planet covered in water and weather patterns creating large waves, why not harness the energy created within them? This is something which has been attempted for over 200 years with the first patent filed in 1799 by French physicist Pierre-Simon Girard, with many more ideas created since then. However, large amounts of these never make it past the first stage, with even fewer making it to full scale ocean testing.

In an article for Wired magazine, co-founder of Eco Wave Power stated, “Wave Energy doesn’t shut down at night or if there’s cloud cover or pollution blocking the sun”, so how much energy can be made from the oceans waves and how? That depends upon multiple factors one of which is its location. Wave Energy Converters can be put into three main categories, shoreline, nearshore and offshore, with each category converting the energy in different methods, some utilising indirect methods such as hydraulic pumps and others using more direct methods such as simple permanent magnet linear generators.

An offshore device such as the Wello Penguin, is a simple direct convertor and is capable of producing 600kW of power per device. Shaped like a ship’s hull it converts the wave movement into a gyration, and is amplified before being connected to a generator. The shore line LIMPET, an oscillating water column, which uses the air pushed through the column as a wave crashes on the shore to spin a turbine, connected to a generator. Two very different methods of electricity conversion and generation.

In recent years, progress in wave energy conversion is something which has not progressed as other renewable energy methods have. In 2014, within a year of each other, the two major European competitors in the market both entered into administration. The P2 developed by Pelamis and the Oyster developed by Aquamarine Power each had the capability of generating 2.4MW of energy, catching up to that of an offshore wind turbine. The path forward has not been easy .

However, the future is starting to look brighter again, in the first month of 2018, there have been numerous breakthroughs in the market; with Finnish company Wello signing a contract to develop the penguin device for operation and deployment in large wave farms in the Chinese sea, Irish company Ocean energy have partnered with a US company to develop their OE Buoy for operation in the Pacific Ocean.

The next few years for wave energy conversion will be critical and its path forward is looking promising. For more information and news, please visit the European Marine Energy Centres website by clicking here.

Image: © Wello Oy