Wave energy is a renewable, sustainable and widely available free source of energy. With the right technical, economic and financial solutions, it could have a vast impact on electricity production in the world.
The potential market is enormous and virtually untapped. IRENA (Int’l Renewable Energy Agency) estimates the potential of ocean energy is between 20 000 - 80 000 TWh of electricity per year, or 100% - 400% of current global consumption. According to the UNEP, about half of the world’s population lives within 60 km of a coast and ¾ of our large cities are located on the sea. There is a huge opportunity to provide these communities with competitively priced clean energy from stable, consistent waves.
Wave power offers excellent utilization per megawatt (MW) installed. Under the right circumstances, it can be very price competitive.
When people refer to the size of an energy park – say, a 1 MW installation – the number of MW refers to the energy the park is capable of producing at full capacity, or “full speed” if you will. However, no energy park is at full capacity all the time.
The load factor, or utilization factor, refers to the percentage of full capacity that you can expect on average, over time.
Expected production in % of installed capacity
The graph above compares industry averages for load factors for several renewable technologies. Because circumstances can vary, we’ve chosen to show the typical range for each technology. As you see, the load factor for wave power is very competitive.
Wave energy can be effectively harnessed in installations that take comparatively little space. Because of the high density of water, waves are a concentrated form of energy. In addition, waves work around the clock to generate power.
The more power delivered to the grid per MW installed, the lower the cost of electricity.
Several factors contribute to the ability of wave power to deliver more – and more consistent – power to the grid per MW installed.
Constant: The sun sets, the wind stops, but waves work essentially 24/7. Waves formed by high winds continue to propagate long after the wind stops blowing.
Predictable: Waves vary in strength, but are surprisingly predictable and can be forecasted 5 days or more in advance.
Stable: Because of the stable availability of wave energy, there is minimal need for expensive batteries.
Convenient: A large portion of the earth’s population live near the coast. This keeps transmission costs down, which in turn lowers the price of electricity.
Therefore the load factor, or average amount of energy you get out of an installation, can be significantly higher for wave than for solar or wind power.